Tartar builds up on teeth and has a number of different nicknames: plaque, tartar, or calculus.
This build-up can form several layers. The first layer is known as the maturation phase and occurs very quickly – within 24 hours after it forms, this maturation phase becomes so hard that teeth cleaners cannot remove it with a toothbrush.
The second layer is the mineralization phase, where the tartar becomes even harder and more difficult to remove.
Eventually, if left untreated, this tartar will cause gum disease, cavities, and tooth loss.
Daily Brushing Improves Tartar
Daily brushing and flossing help keep your teeth clean from plaque, which attracts bacteria. Too much bad bacteria can lead to tooth decay. If you have been neglecting your teeth, however, plaque may not be your biggest concern. You should be more worried about tartar build-up. If you haven’t been keeping your smile as clean as you should, check out what you should know about tartar and your teeth.
Tartar Is Hardened Plaque
Plaque is the sticky substance that gets on and between your teeth from eating and drinking. Some foods and beverages are worse at creating plaque, such as bread. On the other hand, some hard cheeses and apples can remove plaque as you eat.
If you don’t brush your teeth properly, or don’t brush your teeth at all, sticky plaque will stay on your teeth before turning into tartar. Also, if you have crooked, over-crowded, or broken teeth it can be hard to remove the daily build-up of plaque.
The remaining plaque turns into tartar within about 24 to 72 hours. Just like plaque, tartar can attract more bacteria, which can further worsen the problem. You can often spot tartar yourself by looking for yellowish spots near the gum line.
Tartar Can Lead to Many Complications
Tartar leads to many complications. First, tartar makes it harder to clean your teeth. You can’t brush away the tartar, so you can’t brush the tooth tissue under the tartar. If there is a lot of tartar build-up between your teeth, flossing may also prove difficult. If you can’t clean your mouth properly, the problem will only continue to worsen.
Tartar doesn’t just cause cavities. It can also irritate your gums and cause gum disease. If you only develop gingivitis, you and you can work together to quickly treat and reverse the problem. However, if your teeth have sustained periodontitis-level damage, the effects are irreversible without major procedures like gum grafts.
How long before tartar damages teeth?
Tartar build-up can start to damage teeth within a few months. The earlier tartar is removed, the better.
If you do develop periodontitis because of your tartar, gaps can develop between the tooth and gums. Bacteria love this because it gives them a new access point to your teeth: the root, which is unprotected by enamel. The gums are supposed to protect the tooth’s root, and if they aren’t doing their job, severe decay and infection may soon follow.
Tartar Build-Up Should Be Removed By a Professional
Brushing and flossing daily is really important because plaque quickly becomes tartar, and once it’s tartar, you can’t remove it on your own, or at least, you shouldn’t. Tartar build-up needs to be scraped off, and trying to do this at home can cause you to scratch the enamel and severely damage your teeth.
For this reason, you must visit your dentist’s office to remove tartar. The dental assistant will safely scale away the tartar with a sharp tool. The teeth are also smoothed because a rough surface makes it easier for plaque and bacteria to cling.
Depending on how much tartar you had, your dentist may recommend using an electric toothbrush, buying special toothpaste with fluoride and avoiding certain foods. If you smoke, your dentist will also suggest you stop smoking as it can increase the risk of tartar and gum disease.
Plaque is easy to remove, but if you miss some or forget to brush and floss for a while, it can quickly harden into tartar, which can’t be removed at home. Only a good dental cleaning can safely eliminate tartar without damaging teeth.
Do Not Scrape Plaque Off Teeth Yourself!
If you try to scrape or scratch plaque off your teeth at home, you can severely damage the enamel on your teeth. This includes scraping tartar off with your finger; don’t do it! Using something hard, like tweezers to scrape off plaque, is particularly dangerous for your enamel. You may also damage your gums or injure your cheeks and tongue. These wounds may become infected leading to abscesses or other dental problems. A dentist can do this for you safely using an ultrasonic instrument, known as a scaler.
Tartar Breaking Off The Back of Teeth
If tartar is not removed, it will become calcified and hard. Tarter breaking off the back of teeth can leave a sharp edge that can damage your tongue and cheek tissue. It is also possible for this hard layer to break off or fall off and enter the bloodstream. When this happens, blood vessels can narrow because of these calcium deposits. Tartar doesn’t just have bad effects on your teeth, it can create many other health issues.
How to Prevent Tartar Build-Up
Thankfully, it’s easy to prevent tartar from forming. All you have to do is practice good dental hygiene. Yes, that means brushing your teeth, flossing daily, and using mouthwash. Flossing is especially important because even the best toothbrushes and brushing techniques can’t reach the tiny spaces between your teeth and gumline like floss can. And if you don’t floss daily, then that gives the plaque even more time to form and cause you more harm.
Mouthwash also helps prevent tartar because it kills off most bacteria that feed off of sugary foods. Without those bacteria, there’s nothing to build tartar. Another added bonus is without those pesky bacteria, your teeth won’t be hurt by the lactic acid they create.
Finally, you should visit your dentist every six months for a thorough cleaning. Not only will your hygenist and dentist remove that tough to reach plaque and tartar, but they’ll also give you tips for taking better care of your teeth. As a result, your teeth stay healthier longer and you won’t have to have expensive operations later on.
There are so many good reasons to take care of your teeth!
Visit Snodgrass-King Dentistry for Adult and Pediatric Teeth Cleaning
For more information about tartar and cleanings, call us at Snodgrass-King. We perform routine cleanings that can keep your teeth free from tartar. If you have tartar build-up, don’t wait! Schedule an appointment with us today!