Most people are aware of dental plaque and tartar, even if they don’t know exactly what they are. Preventing these substances from building up is one of the main reasons brushing and flossing teeth is so important. But what exactly are they? What damage can be done if they’re allowed to grow?
What Are Plaque and Tartar?
Dental plaque and tartar are almost always mentioned together because they’re effectively two versions of the same thing.
Our mouths — and indeed the rest of our bodies — are home to many types of bacteria. In the mouth, this bacteria can bond with proteins and food by
products to form a sticky film. This film is known as dental plaque.
This bacteria-carrying substance places bacteria under your gumline, in the biting surfaces of your teeth, on dental restorations — basically all the places you don’t want bacteria to grow.
If not cleared out regularly, this plaque will eventually harden into a substance called tartar. Tartar, also known as calculus, forms around the base of teeth. It’s a hard, porous, white substance which can even form bridges from one tooth to another.
Dangers of Tartar/Calculus
Bacteria held within plaque can eat away at the enamel and lead to cavities.
Tartar also leads to cavities, and makes it difficult to brush and clean teeth properly. This in turn makes other infections such as gum disease much more likely.
Progressive gum disease starts off as gingivitis, or inflammation of the gum. This can be treated just through brushing, flossing, and regular checks at the dentist.
Advanced gum disease, also known as periodontitis, can lead to much worse issues. These include:
- Gums can recede.
- Teeth can become loose and fall out.
- Bone can start deteriorating from infection and immune responses.
- Teeth may need root canal or extraction.
- Bacteria can enter the bloodstream and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, or complicate pregnancies.
Preventing Plaque and Tartar Buildups
The easiest way to prevent plaque and tartar building up is to brush and floss your teeth regularly. Brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day are the most effective means to keep your mouth healthy.
However, even with regular brushing and flossing it’s not possible to keep your teeth 100% free of tartar and calculus. For this, you’ll need to visit your dentist once or twice a year.
Regular hygiene appointments with your dentist will allow them to perform what is known as prophylaxis. This is a cleaning performed by a dentist or hygienist during which whereby tartar is scraped off the teeth and a fluoride mouthwash is given to help remineralise enamel. This is what you normally get when you visit the dentist during a regular check and clean.
Combining at-home oral care and regular dentist appointments is the best method of preventing tartar buildup from reaching dangerous levels.
Treating Severe Tartar
A “deep clean” is needed to treat severe tartar/calculus buildup.
Firstly, all of the tartar is removed. This often involves special scraping instruments, but can also involve special ultrasonic devices that break down the solid masses into more easily managed pieces.
Next, the gaps between the tooth and the gum which will have formed are cleared of bacteria. This may require two or three trips to the dentist to get a complete clean of the infected areas.
In extreme cases, tartar can sometimes be the only thing holding teeth in place. When the tartar is removed, the teeth fall out along with it. In these cases, intense restorative work will be needed to address the missing teeth as well as clear out the infection within the mouth.
Contact Platinum Dental for more information or to book your regular dental check up today.