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The Difference Between Plaque and Tartar

You’ve probably heard the terms “plaque” and “tartar” before, more or less interchangeably. And while the two are similar, there are some very important differences you should be aware of! Keep reading for everything you need to know about these two oral health terms. 

Similarities Between Plaque and Tartar

Plaque and tartar are both bad news for your teeth. They increase the risk of several oral health issues, including cavities and gingivitis. Brushing your teeth correctly and consistently, flossing regularly, and seeing your dentist at least twice a year are the best ways to avoid plaque and tartar—but sometimes, even that isn’t enough. We’ll go over how to remove each in a little bit. 

One of the reasons people confuse plaque and tartar is because, in addition to having similar consequences, they’re actually different phases of the same issue—bacteria buildup. 

Differences Between Plaque and Tartar

While the end results of plaque and tartar are different, they both start out the same—as plaque. Plaque is essentially bacteria stuck together that you can see on your teeth and gums. It shows up as a soft, yellowish film over the affected area.

If left alone for too long—meaning that it isn’t removed—plaque hardens and becomes tartar. The plaque traps calcium and other minerals from your saliva, causing it to calcify (or harden) into tartar. Tartar is darker in color, hard to the touch, and can stain your teeth. Because tartar is so difficult to remove, it traps more bacteria, thus starting the cycle over again. 

How to Remove Plaque

If you notice plaque on your teeth or gums, don’t panic—most of the time, it can be fairly easily removed at home! Some common signs of plaque in your mouth include bad breath that won’t go away, feeling a film over your teeth or gums, bleeding or painful gums, etc. 

Brushing and flossing regularly and thoroughly can help remove plaque, but visiting your dentist at least twice a year is the best defense against it. Plaque can hide in between your teeth and in hard-to-reach places, and if you’re in the early stages of gum disease it could be hiding in pockets in your gums caused by swelling. 

How to Remove Tartar

If you’re noticing discoloration on your teeth, especially between them and around your gums, you might have tartar. Rough patches on your teeth or swollen gums could also be a sign. While plaque can be removed more or less at home, tartar is a different story. You’ll need to see a professional to get rid of it.Has it been a while since you’ve seen your dentist? It’s time to make an appointment! Get in touch with LeCroy Dental today for that fresh, just-left-the-dentist feeling. We look forward to seeing you!