Did you know that the human mouth is home to an astonishing 700 known bacterial species?
Granted, some of these microorganisms are beneficial, as they help to keep tooth decay at bay. Some of the “good” bacteria also help create saliva, which in turn, helps in food digestion.
Unfortunately, many other bacterial species in the mouth are responsible for plaque. Yes, it’s the same “plaque” that led to as many as 91% of US adults suffering from tooth decay!
Moreover, unremoved plaque hardens and turns into tartar buildup. This hardened plaque further increases your risk for tooth decay and gum disease.
If the area where your teeth meet the gums have become darker than the rest of your teeth, that’s likely tartar.
In this case, its’ time for you to pay your dentist a visit. At the same time, there are self-care practices that can help you keep more calculus from forming.
Ready to get rid of and prevent more tartar from building up on your teeth? Then let’s get right into it!
Plaque vs Tartar: The Lowdown on These Dental Cavity-Causing Agents
Both plaque and tartar can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Tartar is actually plaque, but not all plaque becomes tartar.
When Plaque Forms
Dental plaque is the clear but sticky layer of film that forms on the teeth. Every time you eat carbohydrates, you’re also feeding the bacteria in your mouth.
Carbs are essential energy sources, and they’re also in most food products. These include fruits, veggies, dairy, and anything that contains starch and sugar. In short, plaque is very likely to form on your teeth after you eat or drink.
This happens because the bacteria in the mouth feast on carbs, and in doing so, they produce acids. When these acids mix with your saliva, the result is dental plaque. The dental plaque itself contains up to 1,000 various bacterial species.
You won’t be able to notice dental plaque at first, but if you let it stay on your teeth for 12 hours, it becomes noticeable. The longer it remains on the teeth, the more acids they can produce. These are the acids that can wear away the enamel of the teeth, resulting in tooth decay.
When Plaque Becomes Tartar
The longer you leave plaque undisturbed, the more chances it has of turning into tartar. Tartar, or dental calculus, is the term for hardened plaque. This usually forms along the base of the teeth, just above the gumline.
If the lower area of your teeth closest to the gums has turned yellowish, that’s a solid sign of tartar buildup.
Keeping Plaque and Tartar at Bay Starts With Personal Oral Hygiene
While plaque will always form on the teeth, that doesn’t mean that tartar will, as well. Prompt plaque removal is key to preventing tartar formation.
Floss Before You Brush
Toothbrush bristles can’t reach the very narrow areas and crevices between the teeth. Flossing helps to get rid of food debris and plaque that have found their way in these areas of the teeth. As such, it also aids in tartar removal and prevention.
However, scientists found that it’s best to floss before you brush. According to them, this method is more effective in reducing “interdental plaque”. That’s the term for plaque that collects between two adjacent teeth.
Brush for No Less Than Two Minutes
Forty-five seconds — that’s the average length of time that people spend on every tooth brushing session. Unfortunately, this practice doesn’t remove as much plaque as needed. Whereas brushing for at least 120 seconds can remove up to a quarter more of plaque from the teeth!
So, after you floss, don’t rush to finish brushing — spend at least two minutes to gently remove plaque from your teeth. If you’re wearing braces, step up your game and brush even longer. Make sure you put your dental brace picks to good use too.
The bottom line is, the more plaque you can get rid of, the less of it can harden into tartar.
Feast On Healthy Veggies That Also Act as a Plaque Removal Tool
Celery is one such healthy food for stronger teeth and gums. Its fibrous texture helps to remove food as well as scrub away at plaque that’s already on the teeth. Plus, it’s a powerhouse of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals like folate and potassium.
Broccoli, apples, and potatoes are also rich in fiber that can protect your teeth from plaque.
When It’s Time to See Your Dentist for Tartar Removal
At the very least, you should be seeing your dentist twice a year. However, you should pay your dentist a visit more often if you have serious tartar buildup. This way, your dentist can give you a thorough dental cleaning to rid your teeth and gums of hardened plaque.
During a dental cleaning, your dentist will use a special tool known as a “scaler”. It’s a tool that scrapes away plaque and tartar from the teeth. The metal ends of the tool have a curved or hooked shape.
It’s important to have your dentist do this, as the tartar may have already irritated your gums. In this case, your gums will be more susceptible to trauma, so even the slightest mistake can cause it to bleed more. Your dentist will make sure that your gums remain safe throughout the entire process.
After this, your dentist will then brush and polish your teeth. Your dentist may use either a motorized brush or a prophy angle. Either way, this finishing touch ensures that no tartar remains on your teeth.
Don’t Lose Any of Your Teeth to Dental Plaque and Tartar Buildup
Keep in mind that plaque and tartar buildup are two of the most common causes of tooth loss. They are also among the most common culprits behind gum disease. That’s why it’s of utmost importance to get rid of them as soon as they form on your teeth.
Speaking of tooth loss, are you in the market for the best tooth replacement options? If so, then please feel free to check out this guide we have on replacing missing teeth!