Plaque and tartar go together like Batman and Robin, but this pairing isn’t exactly on the side of the good guys! In fact, plaque and tartar can wreak havoc on your dental health, which is why it’s good to know the difference between the two, as well as the signs and risks of each. Here’s everything you need to know about fighting this dynamic duo of dental doom.

Plaque vs. Tartar: The Breakdown

What is Plaque? 

Guess what? We all have to deal with plaque. That’s because plaque is a sticky, clear film that naturally builds up on teeth throughout the day as you eat and drink, especially if what you’re consuming contains sugar. Add saliva to the mix and harmful bacteria forms, releasing acid that enjoys hanging out along your gum line and causing damage and disease. If that isn’t reason enough to make sure you brush and floss daily, here’s the kicker: the longer plaque sticks around on your teeth, the greater chance it will harden and turn into, you guessed it — tartar!

What is Tartar?

Because the struggle of plaque buildup is real, it’s common for tartar to accumulate over time. Tartar occurs when plaque remains on teeth too long, allowing it to trap minerals and calcify, thus tartar’s alter ego: calculus (and yes, it’s even more bothersome than the similarly named math class!).

If tartar, a.k.a. calculus, is left unaddressed, it can result in not only discoloration and cavities, but also tooth decay and gingivitis, among other serious dental problems like periodontitis, which can lead to cardiovascular disease.   

Spotting the Signs & Reducing the Risks 

Now that you know the difference between plaque vs. tartar, it’s time to learn what’s behind this terrible twosome and how to spot the warning signs before tooth trouble ensues.    

Signs of Plaque and Tartar:

  • Bad breath
  • Slimy, fuzzy feeling (plaque)
  • Yellowed appearance and roughness (tartar)
  • Gooey residue on floss
  • Bleeding or sore gums

Risk Factors of Plaque and Tartar:

Your Best Defense Against Plaque and Tartar

If plaque is inevitable and tartar is its trusty sidekick, what do you do to fend them off? Well, the good news is, it’s not all that complicated. You can reduce your risks of plaque and tartar buildup by simply following a healthy and diligent dental routine.

  • Brush twice daily – you might want to use a tartar-control toothpaste for extra fighting power.
  • Floss at least once each day – this is important to get to the spaces between teeth where plaque may set up camp, but a toothbrush can’t reach it.
  • Consider an electric toothbrush – this can provide greater scrubbing power to remove plaque more effectively.
  • Reduce your sugar intake – if you are craving something sweet, just be sure to brush soon after you indulge! 
  • Try opting for snacks with natural plaque-fighting abilities such as celery sticks, apples, or cheese.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings – these are recommended every 6 months.

Remember, if you don’t take plaque and tartar seriously, they can have serious consequences on your dental and overall health. To keep tartar and disease at bay, schedule your biannual dental cleanings with West Michigan Dentistry. You can count on us to keep your teeth safe!