What is the Difference Between Tartar and Plaque?

For so many patients, tartar and plaque are interchangeable scourges that they want to live without. It ruins their smile, can contribute to bad breath, and can contribute to a myriad of other dental issues. Unfortunately, patients believe they can treat tartar and plaque with the same removal and treatment techniques and achieve the same result. However, tartar and plaque are very different occurrences that require two different strategies to deal with effectively. Below we’ll detail the differences between tartar and plaque. 

What is plaque, what does it do, and can it cause tartar?

We hear a lot about plaque and its impact on teeth from TV commercials,  pamphlets, and when dental professionals, including your dentist, tell you to brush and floss your teeth regularly. Plaque is the unsightly buildup on a person’s teeth that comes from food and drink that you ingest throughout your day. Smoking can also cause plaque. Plaque is comprised of acidic bacteria that can harm your teeth and unless it is removed through regular brushing and flossing, can contribute to diseases impacting your gums, tooth decay, and the buildup of tartar.

What is tartar, what does it do, and how can I prevent it?

If plaque isn’t removed on a regular basis by brushing and flossing, it can turn into tartar over a period of one to three days. In addition to the issues related to buildup, tartar can cause bad breath, also known as halitosis, contribute to gum disease, and it will negatively impact enamel which can lead to tooth loss, cavities, and other maladies.  The best way to prevent tartar is to prevent plaque. Brushing twice a day is the most important part of plaque prevention as it effectively cleans your mouth. Additionally, flossing once a day with an emphasis on brushing your gums can get rid of hard to get to plaque and eliminate it.

Why can only a dental professional remove tartar?

Plaque is easy to remove at home and many people practice effective plaque removal through their daily brushing and flossing routine. Tartar buildup is impossible for people to remove at home and requires a dental professional with the correct training and instruments. Your dental professional, a dentist or hygienist, will use a metal scaler to remove tartar from your mouth. For most patients who go to regular dental visits every six months or so, this is a sufficient treatment to remove the tartar buildup. However, for other patients who have not gone to the dentist with as much regularity, a patient may need a deep clean that involves other, more invasive procedures to remove tartar.

What do I do if I have any more questions on why tartar can only be removed by a dental professional?

Our New Hyde Park Dental office is available to answer any questions you may have on the difference between plaque and tartar. Call us today so we can answer your questions and assist you in ensuring any and all tartar you have is removed – so you can have a healthy smile that will last you for years to come.