Understanding Plaque And Tartar: Causes, Consequences, And Prevention

Plaque And Tartar

Are your teeth feeling a bit rough at the base, just by your gums? It’s likely you’re grappling with dental plaque, that sticky film where cheeky bacteria love to throw a party. This blog is your go-to guide for understanding what causes this pesky plaque and tartar build-up—and how to send those uninvited guests packing.
Keep reading; we’ve got some tooth-saving tricks up our sleeve!

Understanding Dental Plaque and Tartar
Dental plaque is a sticky film that forms on your teeth and contains bacteria, while tartar is hardened plaque that can only be removed by a dental professional. Understanding how these build up will help you prevent potential dental issues in the future.

What is Dental Plaque?
Dental plaque is a soft and sticky substance that clings to your teeth every single day. It’s invisible to the naked eye, but it’s teeming with bacteria that thrive on sugars from the food and drinks you consume.
These bacteria release acids after munching on those sugars, which can attack tooth enamel and lead to cavities.
Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to wage war on this sneaky film. Floss daily too, because those bristles can’t reach everywhere, and plaque loves to hide between teeth and along the gumline.
If left unchallenged, plaque hardens into tartar in just 24-72 hours — that’s why sticking to your oral hygiene routine is so critical for protecting your smile!

How Dental Plaque leads to Tartar Buildup
Every time you eat or drink, bacteria in your mouth get busy. They feast on sugars from your food and create a sticky film known as dental plaque on the surfaces of your teeth. This filmy layer is teeming with millions of bacteria.
If you don’t brush and floss regularly to clean it off, this plaque can harden under your gum line into a substance called tartar within 24 to 72 hours.
Tartar is much tougher than plaque; you can’t simply brush or floss it away. Its rough surface gives additional space for more plaque to grow and stick around, setting the stage for gum disease like gingivitis.
As tartar accumulates more at the base of your teeth, only specialised dental instruments used by dentists or dental hygienists during professional cleanings can remove it, making regular oral hygiene practices essential to prevent its formation.

Causes of Dental Plaque and Tartar
Poor oral hygiene stands as a primary culprit in the formation of dental plaque. Neglecting regular brushing and flossing allows food particles to linger on your teeth and gums, providing the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
These bacteria release acids that harden into tartar over time, a substance so tough that only professional dental cleanings can remove it.
Certain foods and drinks dramatically increase the risk of plaque build-up. Sugary snacks like sweets or sugary gum create an ideal environment for streptococcus mutans, a type of bacteria responsible for tooth decay.
Likewise, starchy foods such as bread or crisps can stick to the teeth longer than other foods, giving bacteria more opportunity to thrive. Beverages like soft drinks are not only high in sugar but also acidic, which exacerbates enamel erosion and promotes even more plaque accumulation.
Saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining oral health by neutralising acids and washing away food particles; however, conditions such as dry mouth significantly reduce saliva’s effectiveness.
As a result, those with dry mouth experience an accelerated rate of plaque development and subsequent tartar formation compared to individuals with normal salivary function.
Additionally, lifestyle factors contribute to this issue as well: smokers tend to have more tartar build-up due to the chemicals in tobacco affecting saliva production while excessive alcohol consumption dries out the mouth further facilitating plaque formation.
Regular dental check-ups are essential because they help identify these risks early on before serious damage occurs.

Recognising the Symptoms of Dental Plaque
It’s not always easy to spot dental plaque since it starts off as a transparent layer on your teeth. However, if you notice a fuzzy feeling on the surface of your teeth, that could be one of the first signs.
Pay close attention when you’re brushing or flossing; these actions can reveal soft deposits, especially near the gum line where plaque tends to accumulate most.
Another telltale symptom is persistent bad breath. If you find yourself reaching for mints or mouth rinse more often than usual, it might be time for a better look at your oral hygiene routine.
Swollen gums and bleeding after brushing are red flags that should prompt a visit to the dental clinic. And if left unchecked, that harmless-looking plaque can harden into tartar – visible as yellow or brown patches on your teeth – which means professional cleaning will soon be necessary to prevent further issues like tooth decay and periodontitis.

Consequences of Dental Plaque and Tartar
Unchecked plaque on your teeth hardens into tartar, creating a rough surface where even more bacteria can thrive. This cycle worsens oral health, leading to persistent bad breath and inflamed gums—a condition known as gingivitis.
If left unchecked, gingivitis can advance to periodontal disease, a serious infection that damages the soft tissue and bone supporting the teeth.
Dental calculus—another term for tartar—does not just affect gum tissues; it contributes to cavities by providing an ideal place for acid-producing bacteria to reside. These acids erode tooth enamel over time, resulting in painful cavities that need professional treatment.
Additionally, significant buildup of plaque and tartar can lead to tooth sensitivity or even tooth loss as the supportive structures of your teeth are compromised. Maintaining consistent dental hygiene with regular brushing and flossing alongside professional cleanings is key to preventing these distressing outcomes.

Prevention Strategies for Plaque and Tartar Buildup
Brush your teeth twice a day using a soft – bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. This helps remove food particles and plaque from the tooth surfaces.
Floss daily to eliminate plaque between teeth where your brush can’t reach. Regular flossing also prevents the build-up of tartar along the gum line.
Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash after brushing. Mouth rinses reduce bacterial growth and help prevent plaque from hardening into tartar.
Eat a balanced diet that is low in sugary snacks and carbohydrates. Foods rich in sugar contribute to the formation of plaque, while vegetables help clean your teeth naturally.
Chew sugarless gum after meals. Sugar – free gum increases saliva production, which neutralises acids and washes away food particles.
Avoid tobacco products as they contribute to plaque and tartar accumulation as well as a host of other dental issues.
Consider using an electric toothbrush for more effective cleaning. Many dental professionals agree that electric brushes can remove more plaque than manual brushing alone.
Visit your dentist or oral hygienist regularly for professional cleanings and examinations. Skilled dental care is essential for removing tartar that you cannot get rid of at home.
Ask about dental sealants if you’re prone to caries; this protective coating can be applied by your dentist to ward off decay.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated, which helps maintain saliva flow and cleanse the teeth and gums.

Treatment Options for Dental Plaque
Removing dental plaque is crucial to maintaining a healthy mouth. Here are the most effective treatment options used by dental professionals for tackling tooth plaque:
Dental scaling and root planing: This deep-cleaning dental procedure removes plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line. Dental scaling scrapes off the tartar, while root planing smoothens out the roots of your teeth, helping your gums reattach to your teeth.
Fluoride treatments: Applied by a dentist or hygienist, fluoride treatments can help restore tooth enamel and prevent further decay by strengthening teeth against acids produced by bacteria in plaque.
Chlorhexidine mouthwashes: Prescribed chlorhexidine mouthwash helps control plaque and gum inflammation. It’s often recommended after dental procedures or for individuals who struggle with maintaining oral hygiene.
Ultrasonic scalers: These devices use vibrations to break down tartar deposits quickly and comfortably, often used along with hand tools during professional teeth cleanings.
Over-the-counter products: Special toothpastes and oral rinses designed to combat plaque can be part of daily oral care. Products like Crest Pro-Health or Oral-B contain active ingredients that reduce biofilm formation on teeth.

Importance of Regular Dental Check-ups
Going to the dentist regularly is a key defence against tartar and plaque. During these check-ups, dental professionals can spot early signs of problems, like cavities or gum disease that you might not notice at home.
They also perform a thorough oral cleaning, which removes any plaque or tartar build-up in those hard-to-reach areas your toothbrush might miss. This ensures your mouth stays as clean as possible and helps prevent chronic conditions linked to poor dental health.
Dental appointments are the perfect opportunity for asking questions about your daily oral care routine too. You can get personalised advice on brushing technique, whether you need fluoride treatments or how best to floss if you have braces or retainers.
Making these visits every six months keeps small issues from becoming big problems and supports overall well-being – remember that conditions like diabetes can often be reflected in your dental health.
Next up, let’s explore why maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial beyond just avoiding cavities and gum disease.
Understanding the causes and consequences of plaque and tartar is crucial for maintaining good oral health. Regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups are effective strategies for preventing plaque buildup.
Additionally, using anti-plaque toothpaste and mouthwash can help protect against gingivitis and tartar formation. Taking proactive steps to combat plaque and tartar buildup is essential for a healthy smile.
If you need help with your dental issues, Royal Dental Care has five practices across Parramatta, Eastwood, Lindfield, Narellan, and Bella Vista. You can book your appointment at your nearest location.

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