What is Tartar?
Tartar, also called dental calculus, is a yellow or brown colored deposit that forms when plaque hardens on your teeth. Because tartar buildup on teeth is strongly bonded to the tooth enamel, it can only be removed by a dental professional. You have a greater risk of developing tartar with braces, dry mouth, crowded teeth, smoking and aging. Individuals vary greatly in their susceptibility to tartar buildup. For many, these deposits build up faster with age.
If you don’t take the steps needed to prevent and get rid of plaque, it may lead to:
Cavities: eat away at your tooth enamel.
Gingivitis: inflammation of the gums.
Bad Breath: your breath smells bad.
Retreat of the gums
What causes Tartar?
Dental plaque is an extremely sticky, colorless to pale yellow deposit of biofilm that regularly forms on your teeth. When saliva, food, and fluids combine they produce bacteria deposits, which collect where the teeth and gums meet. Over time, if plaque isn’t removed on a regular basis, minerals from your saliva are deposited into the plaque biofilm causing it to harden within 24 to 72 hours, turning into tartar. And while you can remove plaque at home, tartar removal requires the help of a dental professional.
How does Tartar build up?
When saliva, food, and fluids combine in your mouth they produce an environment that allows the bacteria to grow and deposit where the teeth and gums meet. Common foods that contribute to plaque formation and growth include those containing carbohydrates, or simple sugars, such as sucrose and starches, found in soft drinks and candy.
Eating such food can cause an increase in plaque bacteria, which leads to gingivitis, caries and advanced gum disease. Plaque hides between teeth and under the gum line. There’s no way to avoid it entirely so it’s important to maintain a good oral routine to keep it from accumulating.
Are Tartar Buildup and Gum Disease related?
The same bacterial acids that destroy tooth enamel can initiate an infection of your gum tissue and bone surrounding your teeth. When you don't remove all of the bacterial plaque from your teeth, it hardens into tartar. Though bacterial plaque causes gum disease, tartar buildup gives bacterial plaque a place to thrive.
In the first stage of gum disease (gingivitis), your gums become red, swollen and bleed easily due to plaque adhering along the tooth and gumline causing inflammation around the teeth. If plaque and tartar are left at the gumline and underneath the gums, bacterial toxins will attack the bone and ligaments surrounding the teeth in more advanced phases of gum disease, like periodontitis, can occur.
Do dental X-rays show Tartar build up?
When gum disease is present the source of the infection should be revealed. A radiograph can show the presence of plaque build-up along the necks of the teeth and on the surface of the roots.
While surveying your periodontal health in a regular appointment, your dental practitioner checks the health of your gums and search for loss of gum tissue. They also look for the receding of the gums, especially to the point where the base of the teeth is visible. They also check for zones or pockets of substantial plaque or tartar and measure the values of each of these around every tooth.
How can Tartar be removed?
A thorough ultrasonic cleaning takes about one-third less time as compared to hand scaling, possibly because it requires the clinician to use less force than a hand scaler to get the same effect. In ultrasonic scaling, only the tip of the tool touches the tooth surface, and only for a short time. It's also possible to remove deposits of plaque and tartar from under the gum line by using an extremely small tip on an ultrasonic unit, which can cause less discomfort and result in a deeper and better cleaning. Sometimes an ultrasonic scaler is used first, and then any stubborn areas are scaled by hand.
How often should I have Tartar cleaning?
You should have a dental exam and cleaning at least once a year. Twice a year is best. Dental exams and cleaning are done to remove plaque and bacteria that could lead to tooth and gum disease. They are also done to check for tongue and mouth cancer.
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