Sean Abidin, DDS • Vanessa Cao, DDS phone (614) 882-9828

What’s the Difference Between Plaque & Tartar?

Drawing of the bottom arch of teeth having plaque cleaned away at the dentist

You’ve likely heard the words “plaque” and “tartar” at the dentist or seen them on dental products. For example, some toothpastes and mouthwashes are advertised to be “antiplaque” and help prevent tartar and fight gingivitis.

What Is Plaque?

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria constantly forming on your teeth. It gives them a fuzzy or scummy feeling. It’s formed when the bacteria in your mouth combine with the carbs found in foods like fruit, pasta, bread, and candy. Daily brushing and flossing protects your oral health by removing plaque before it has a chance to accumulate.

What Is Tartar?

Tartar, which is also called calculus, is hardened plaque. If plaque isn’t regularly removed, the minerals in your saliva combine with the film of bacteria to turn the plaque into this hardened deposit. Unlike plaque, tartar stubbornly adheres to your teeth and can’t be easily brushed or flossed away. It’s a yellow or brown color, so it’s more noticeable than plaque.

Harmful Effects of Plaque & Tartar

If you don’t maintain good oral hygiene every day at home or routinely visit the dentist for a professional cleaning, the health consequences can be serious! Plaque and tartar are both harmful substances. The bacteria produces toxins that irritate your gums and erode your tooth enamel. This can result in bad breath, sensitivity, discoloration, gum disease, cavities, and tooth loss. Additionally, gum disease and cavities can lead to infections that can contribute to heart disease, respiratory issues, diabetes complications, sepsis, and possibly dementia.

How to Prevent Dental Issues

Maintaining good oral hygiene at home, visiting our comfortable office for professional cleanings, consuming a balanced diet, and avoiding tobacco products will help promote strong teeth and healthy gums. If you have any questions about our dental services or need to schedule an appointment with Dr. Abidin or Dr. Cao, please contact us today!

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Image from Authority Dental under CC 2.0

Sean Abidin, DDS & Vanessa Cao, DDS