What’s the Difference Between Plaque and Tartar?

What’s the Difference Between Plaque and Tartar?

Plaque and tartar are very similar, but they’re not the same thing. Both contribute to the development of gum disease (also known as periodontal disease.) We also scrape away both of them when you get a dental cleaning.

But plaque and tartar have very different functions when it comes to your teeth. Plaque is the first stage, which, when left unchecked, leads to tartar. Dr. Anette Betancor of Dente Complete Dentistry explains the differences between plaque and tartar.

What is plaque?

You probably know plaque by how it feels. It makes your teeth feel fuzzy, and some people may have bad breath. You may also have a slimy “goo” on your dental floss. You can get rid of it by brushing your teeth but brushing alone doesn’t always get rid of it.

Plaque is inevitable: it’s a biofilm that forms on your teeth due to an interaction between the normal bacteria in your mouth and the foods you eat.

Some people even develop plaque below their gum lines, which gum rejuvenation can take care of. But keeping up with regular dental checkups, combined with regular brushing, is often enough to keep plaque at bay.

What is tartar?

Quite simply, tartar is what happens when you don’t get rid of the plaque that forms in your mouth. Eventually, it hardens into tartar, also called calculus. 

Over time, uncleaned plaque solidifies and gets harder, which turns into tartar. At this point, it has to be scraped away with special tools in the dentist’s office. Brushing alone won’t get rid of it.

How plaque and tartar contribute to gum disease

Nobody wants gum disease. At this point, it usually means that your teeth haven’t been cared for as well as they should have. Although it can often be repaired, the gum disease repair process can be painful and expensive.

Some people are at greater risk of developing plaque and gum disease than others. These risk factors include:

Certain toothpastes are marketed toward the elimination of plaque. Although these may be helpful, there’s no substitute for getting regular dental cleanings. Not only does the plaque get removed during dental cleanings, but tartar is professionally scraped away as well.

If you’re due (or overdue) for a dental cleaning, there’s no time like the present. Contact Dr. Anette Betancor at Dente Complete Dentistry today or request an appointment online.

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