Plaque & Tartar Removal and Control

a3aPatients often confuse plaque and tartar and how they are related to each other.

What is Plaque?

Plaque is a sticky, colorless deposit of bacteria that is constantly forming on teeth. Saliva, food, and fluids combine to produce these deposits that collect on teeth and where teeth and gums meet.  Plaque buildup is the primary cause of periodontal (gum) disease.

Plaque begins forming on teeth 4 to 12 hours after brushing, which is why it is so important to brush at least twice a day and floss daily.  Fighting plaque is a life-long component of oral care.

Tartar Removal and Control

Plaque that is not removed by regular brushing and flossing can harden into unsightly tartar (also called calculus). This crusty deposit creates a cohesive bond on the teeth and gums.  Tartar formation may also make it more difficult for you to remove new plaque and bacteria.

Tartar removal can only be done by a dentist using special scaling instruments.  These instruments allow for deeper cleaning of the teeth especially when there is a moderate to heavy buildup of tartar.  that can only be removed by a dentist.  The prevention of tartar buildup above the gum line has been shown to have a therapeutic effect on gum disease.

The photographs below show 3 degrees of tartar formation:


b3B_slight b3B_Moderate b3B_Heavy
Slight Moderate Heavy

Your can help reduce the formation of tartar by:

  • Brushing with an ADA-accepted tartar-control toothpaste.
  • Having your teeth cleaned professionally every six months, or more frequently as recommended by your dentist or hygienist.

Individuals vary greatly in their susceptibility to plaque and tartar. For many of us, these deposits build up faster as we age.  Fighting tartar is a life-long component of oral care.