What is dental plaque and tartar?

Dental plaque is the white stuff that looks like soggy bread and sticks to your teeth, especially at the gumline.  It is made up of old food and food debris that is then colonized by the bacteria that we have in our mouth.  It takes about 24 hours for plaque to form.  Within about 3 days it starts to harden and is called tartar, or calculus.  Tartar usually occurs around areas where our saliva glands release saliva into our mouth.  Sometimes the chemical make up of the saliva can increase the formation of tartar.  Tartar control toothpastes only make it easier to clean the tartar off the teeth and do not really do mcuh to decrease tartar formation.

Plaque and tartar give bacteria a place to live and grow.  The bacteria uses the food particles for its own food.  It then secretes acids as one of its waste products.  This acid acts as an irritant to the gums and is the cause of gingivitis, or inflamed gums.   This condition is reversible by cleaning off the plaque.  Plaque can usually be removed by simple flossing of and brushing of the teeth.  The major indicator of gingivitis is the bleeding of the gums when we brush.  If the inflammation continues, the secreted acids can cause loss of supporting bone around the teeth.  This condition is called periodontal disease and needs aggressive treatment by your dentist.

Plaque is the main cause of tooth decay.   As the bacteria secrete the acids, the acids causes a demineralization of the enamel (tooth decay) and as that happens. the bacteria penetrate deeper into the tooth.  If left untreated, it can reach the pulp tissue, the blood vessels and nerves inside the tooth, and cause the tooth to abcess.

Once the plaque hardens into tartar, it has to be mechanically remove by a dentist. or dental hygenist.  This is why 6 month check ups with cleanings are so important.  Xrays taken with your check up will usually show your dentist any signs of bone loss, tartar formation in between the teeth, and any demineralization of the enamel (decay).

Plaque and tartar are the main causes of most dental problems.  The best way to prevent plaque and tartar formation is to floss daily, at night is the best time; to brush at least twice a day, or any time after we eat; and to have our 6 month check up and cleanings.


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Good post. Everybody should be aware of plaque and know how to prevent them from causing serious dental problems in the future.

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What is dental plaque and tartar? | The Tooth Truth » The Tooth Truth…

What is dental plaque and tartar? Plaque and tartar build up cause most dental problems….

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[…] What is dental plaque and tartar? | The Tooth Truth » The Tooth Truth thetoothtruth.com/what-is-dental-plaque-and-tartar/2009/08/21 – view page – cached Dental plaque is the white stuff that looks like soggy bread and sticks to your teeth, especially at the gumline.  It is made up of old food and food — From the page […]

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Good post. Everybody should be aware of plaque and know how to prevent them from causing serious dental problems in the future.

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I really like and appreciate your blog.Really thank you! Really Great.

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Thank you. I just relaunched my blog and will be posting every Wednesday.

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