It’s not uncommon to hear your dentist in Cary toss around the words ‘plaque’ and ‘tartar’ almost interchangeably. In fact, we’ve realized that this could cause some confusion, and as always, we want to help our patients understand the difference between the two. Join us as we take a look at what exactly plaque and tartar are, and how they can affect your family’s oral health.
What is Plaque?
When trying to remember the difference between plaque and tartar, it may help to think of the two Ps. Plaque is the primary, or first, thing that can affect your teeth. Plaque is a sticky film that’s basically made up of millions and millions of bacteria. It naturally builds up on teeth throughout each day, and as we eat, the plaque bacteria are also eating. As a byproduct of this feeding, the bacteria release acids. These acids can erode tooth enamel, weaken teeth, and make it easier for cavities to form. However, when we effectively remove plaque through brushing, we can help reduce the number of bacteria and lower the risk of decay and the need for fillings from your Cary dentist.
What is Tartar?
So what happens when plaque remains on the teeth for too long? That’s where tartar comes into play. When plaque isn’t effectively removed it will harden into tartar. Now, while plaque can be cleaned away through at-home brushing, tartar is a different story. Once plaque hardens into tartar it can’t be removed through regular brushing. Your dentist in Cary will need to intervene to thoroughly remove tartar buildup. If tartar is not removed, it can increase the risk of cavities, cause tooth discoloration or tooth sensitivity, and can even lead to gum disease.
How to Avoid Plaque and Tartar Buildup
Avoiding plaque buildup and, in turn, tartar isn’t difficult, but it does require good oral hygiene habits. Make sure you’re brushing your teeth each morning and before bed every night for two minutes each time. Additionally, it’s important to remove plaque that may have accumulated in between teeth by flossing once a day. In between brushings, try to drink plenty of water to help neutralize and rinse away acids, and also to remove bacteria. You can also chew sugarless gum after meals and snacks. And as always, try to avoid sugary sweets and drink as it will make for both a happier, healthier smile and a happier dentist.
The truth is, everyone’s teeth will accumulate some plaque and some tartar. The important thing to remember is that this buildup needs to be removed through both brushing and flossing properly at home and seeing your dentist regularly. That’s why we always recommend that our patients visit us every six months for a checkup and thorough cleaning to remove any tartar that may have formed since their last appointment.
If it’s been longer than six months since your last dental appointment, we welcome you to call and schedule a checkup today. We can’t wait to see you!