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Is There a Difference Between Plaque and Tartar?

plaque and tartarPerhaps you’ve read on your very own toothpaste: “Tartar control” or “Reduces plaque”. We’re betting you looked at this and subconsciously concluded that it sounded like a positive benefit. We’re also betting that you had no idea as to what these terms even meant (if you did then brownie points for you!).

Surprisingly, plaque and tartar are very similar in a couple of ways:

  1. They both form on your teeth through a chemical reaction that takes place inside of your mouth when you begin to break down food and
  2. Unfortunately for us, they both are comprised of bacteria that happen to be harmful to our teeth and gums.

So Exactly What is Dental Plaque and Tartar?

Well, dental plaque is actually a colorless film that sticks, or adheres, to our teeth. It develops on our teeth throughout the day as we break down food. Because it’s colorless, the naked eye cannot detect it.

The good news is that plaque does not terribly threaten our oral health as long as we maintain a steady routine of brushing and flossing.

When we do not keep up with our oral hygiene routine, then plaque that has been resting on your teeth will eventually become a hardened solid that is known as tartar (some may also refer to it as calculus – they refer to the same thing). Tartar becomes troublesome because once formed, a toothbrush cannot remove it. Toothpastes that claim “tartar control” do not help remove tartar, they help prevent tartar formation.

A Never Ending War

Picture the whole idea behind plaque and tartar as a war. On one side we have you and your army of toothbrushes and dental floss with plaque/tartar and their army of bacteria on the other side. It’s a battle that never ends – it takes place every single day. The best thing you can do is keep your enemy at bay (in this case keeping plaque at bay).

Now, when you visit your dentist every 6 months you begin to really shove the enemy back. This is because your dentist is able to provide you with a professional cleaning that not only wipes out any plaque on your teeth, but also removes any tartar as well.

Fight the battle, win the war – make sure you brush and floss your teeth every day so that you do not fall victim to more serious problems such as gum disease, gingivitis, or bone loss.

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