You may have been warned about tartar build up or seen advertisements for toothpastes labeled as being helpful for fighting tartar, but many people aren’t familiar with what tartar actually is. So, what is tartar and what causes it? Let’s explore some of the most common questions regarding tartar and what you can do about it.
Is Tartar Different from Plaque?
Plaque is a soft, sticky white or yellow film made of bacteria and food debris mixed with saliva that forms on your teeth in between brushing. Tartar, or dental calculus, is what plaque turns into when it is not removed frequently enough and has a chance to harden. While plaque is usually easy to remove with brushing and flossing your teeth regularly, tartar is harder and darker in color and generally needs to be scraped off.
Is There Any Way to Remove Tartar at Home?
Unfortunately, there is not a safe way to remove tartar at home because it usually requires special dental tools and training in how to use them to ensure that the outer layer of the tooth called the enamel is not damaged in the cleaning process. Understanding what is tartar and how to control it is the best you can do at home, once it builds up it is smartest to see a dental professional.
What Are Signs of Tartar?
Tartar is usually most noticeable by the way it feels on your teeth. Your teeth should feel very smooth after brushing, but when tartar buildup occurs then your teeth may feel dull or gritty even after being brushed. Tartar can also appear as stains on your teeth because things that stain can more easily adhere to the rough surface of tartar than your tooth enamel.
Can Tartar Cause Problems?
Tartar can lead to many problems if left untreated. Symptoms of tartar buildup include swelling or bleeding of the gums or gum disease, tooth decay and increased sensitivity. Because tartar creates a rough surface on your teeth it can attract more plaque, which is made up of bacteria that can cause irritation or infection along your gumline as well as cavities on your teeth.
I Think I Have Tartar, How Can I Get It Removed?
If you think you may have tartar on your teeth, call your dentist and make an appointment for a dental exam and cleaning. The only way to safely remove tartar from teeth is to get a professional dental cleaning. This is also a great time to ask your dentist questions like what is tartar and what can you do about it. Your dentist or dental hygienist will likely be able to give you tips on how to prevent tartar in any spots where it may be prone to accumulate between cleanings.
When Should I Ask My Dentist About Tartar?
If you notice staining or your teeth don’t feel very smooth or if it’s been more than 6 months since your last dental cleaning, it’s a great idea to make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible for a dental cleaning and exam. The more you stay on top of keeping tartar and plaque at bay, the healthier your teeth will be, and the better your smile will look and feel!
Call our Helotes Dental Office to make an appointment with a dentist who may be able to help you find out more about this topic, and improve your oral health.