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What is Tartar?

tartar build up

Dental calculus — or “tartar,” as most people refer to it — is a hard substance that builds up on your teeth. It’s formed out of soft dental plaque biofilm that calcifies in place when it’s set on the tooth for too long.

When you eat, bacteria in the mouth combine with the food particles to form a thin layer of plaque on your teeth.  Regular brushing and flossing are important for daily plaque removal, but there are often small amounts of buildup left behind. After about 24 hours, the soft plaque hardens into tartar.

Once tartar is attached to a tooth, it can’t be brushed or flossed away. Only a dentist or hygienist can clean it off. Our Port Melbourne dentists have special tools that safely lift away the buildup without damaging your tooth or gums. Sometimes this involves a small hand scaler, and other times we’ll use a gentle ultrasonic tool that vibrates and disrupts the tartar.

Where Tartar Builds Up the Most

Some people tend to metabolize saliva proteins and bacteria at different rates than others. Depending on your situation, you’ve probably noticed at least a small amount of tartar buildup on your teeth between checkups.

The first places you’ll notice tartar tend to be behind your lower front teeth (facing your tongue) and on the cheek side of your upper molars (back teeth.) These areas are home to major saliva glands, and as such you’ll tend to see tartar on those surfaces first.

If you’re a person who gets heavy tartar buildup, be sure to ask our Port Melbourne dentists about special ways to lower your bacterial levels between scale and cleans. For example, a tartar control toothpaste paired with an electric toothbrush can help cut down on buildup that accumulates on a day-to-day basis.

Why Is Tartar A Problem?

If not properly addressed, tartar can lead to several dental issues such as:

  • Gum Disease – Tartar is one of the major contributors to gum disease. When the hardened tartar deposits irritate the gums, it can lead to inflammation, redness and if left untreated, gum disease.
  • Tooth Decay – The rough surface of tartar provides an ideal environment for more plaque to build up. This increases the risk of tooth decay as bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack the tooth’s enamel.
  • Bad breath – The bacteria released in plaque is an odorous compound. The hardened deposits are very challenging to remove thoroughly thus causing bad breath.
  • Teeth stains – Tartar can absorb stains from food and drinks, leading to discoloured teeth.

Tips For Preventing Tartar Buildup

  • Brush twice a day and floss daily
  • Schedule professional cleanings every 6 months
  • Use an antimicrobial mouthwash
  • Limit sugary and starchy foods
  • Hydrate well and after every meal
  • Quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption

Consider scheduling checkups at PMD Dental Care more often than every six months if tartar buildup is something you struggle with. Call today to book your next visit.