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A Patient's Guide to Plaque and Tartar

Last updated 6 years ago

Most people learn as children the importance of regular brushing and flossing to keep teeth healthy and free of cavities. Thank your parents and dentist for getting this important message through. But have you really thought about the reasons for thorough and consistent oral hygiene? Getting to know more about plaque and tartar can only reinforce healthy dental habits.

Plaque
Everyone's teeth have a thin, sticky film called plaque, and all plaque harbors bacteria. After you eat a meal or snack, the bacteria release acids that attack your teeth's enamel. The more sugary the food, the more the acids attack. There is no way to completely avoid plaque, but you can take steps to prevent plaque from causing as much damage. One way is to cut back on sugary drinks and foods, instead choosing to snack on crunchy vegetables or fruits with the peels on. These crunchy foods more or less remove plaque from your teeth as you eat them.

Tartar
If plaque is allowed to persist, it not only releases more damaging acids, but also hardens into tartar, or dental calculus. Unlike plaque, which can be removed at home through brushing, tartar is solidified and must be targeted with professional dental tools. Bacteria from tartar may eventually infect your gums, causing swelling and bleeding, or gingivitis, which can progress to the more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis.

Prevention
Brushing helps prevent plaque buildup, but flossing also keeps the plaque from building up between teeth and around the gum line; that's why both steps are important every day. In addition to diligent at-home care, regular visits to your dentist are vital. An oral hygienist can remove tartar that has built up; if you wait too long between appointments, tartar may inflict severe tooth decay and damage to the gums.

Take good care of your teeth, gums, and smile. If you need a little help correcting your smile with whitening, veneers, or dental implants, call Smile Studio at (212) 688-3838 for an appointment or free consultation.

 

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