Dental plaque is a sticky, colorless or pale yellow film that is constantly forming on your teeth. When saliva, food and fluids combine, plaque – which contains bacteria – forms between your teeth and along the gum line.
Dental plaque begins forming on teeth 4-12 hours after brushing, which is why it is so important to brush thoroughly at least twice a day and floss daily.
How Can Plaque on Teeth Affect My Oral Health?
Plaque is the root cause of many oral health issues. The bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel causing cavities. The bacteria in plaque can also cause the early stage of gum disease called gingivitis. Plaque can also contribute to bad breath and can make your teeth look dingy and yellow.
Plaque on Teeth Causes Cavities and Gingivitis
If plaque is not regularly removed from your teeth by proper brushing and flossing, it mineralizes into tartar, a hard, yellow or brown deposit that tightly adheres to the teeth and can only be removed by a dental professional. If tartar is not removed it can lead to more serious gum disease.
Tartar, also called dental calculus, is a crusty deposit that can trap stains on the teeth and cause discoloration. It creates a strong bond that can only be removed by a dental professional. Tartar formation may also make it more difficult to remove new plaque and bacteria. Individuals vary greatly in their susceptibility to plaque and tartar on teeth. For many of us, these deposits build up faster as we age.
How does tartar form?
If plaque is not removed regularly, and completely, minerals in your saliva combine with plaque to form crystals that harden into tartar.
How do I remove tartar from teeth?
While plaque can be removed by thorough brushing and flossing at home, dental calculus can only be removed by a professional in the dental office. Your dentist or hygienist will use sharp instruments to scrape (scale) the tartar above and below the gumline and smooth the tooth’s surface which helps prevent plaque from adhering and more tartar from forming.
Why is it important to prevent dental calculus buildup?
The surface of tartar is rough and makes it difficult to remove plaque with a toothbrush and floss. Tartar is unsightly – it can be yellow or even brown as stains accumulate. In addition, since it attracts plaque and makes cleaning at home difficult, it can contribute to tooth decay, bad breath and serious forms of gum disease.