Many patients have asked if there is a difference between plaque and tartar. Some of them are very apologetic for having a lot of plaque buildup, while in fact they are talking about tartar. Yes, there is a difference and here I am going to explain it:
Plaque is a white soft sticky layer on the teeth, that everybody makes in their mouth. This is why we have to brush twice a day, to remove it. It contains bacteria, food debris, some cells, proteins, sugars, and many other substances, but most importantly - toxins produced by bacteria.
It may be difficult to remove all the plaque every time we brush
The deposits start collecting where teeth and gum meet. The toxins have a damaging effect on the gums - gums swell up and fill up with blood, this is why they bleed when you brush. It may be a sign that you do not remove all of the plaque every time you brush.
The buildup of plaque is the primary factor in gum disease and this is the reason why it is important to remove all the plaque from all the areas when you brush your teeth.
The plaque starts building up within a few hours after brushing, which is why it is so important to brush twice a day and floss daily.
If plaque is being left on the teeth for some time, it collects minerals from foods and saliva and turns hard and crusty, this is when it becomes a tartar, sometimes called calculus. While the plaque can be brushed off, the tartar forms a strong bond with the enamel (outer layer) of the tooth and it can only be removed by a dental professional. Tartar formation may also make it more difficult to remove plaque as its surface is rough.
Plaque and tartar can also trap stains on the teeth and cause discolouration.
HOW TO PREVENT THE BUILDUP OF PLAQUE AND TARTAR
brush twice a day and floss daily
see a dental hygienist every six months, or more frequently if recommended, to make sure you do not miss any plaque when brushing your teeth and to pick up any gum problems early
have your teeth cleaned professionally to remove tartar