Information on Plaque and Calculus (Tartar)
Unfortunately, several of us will suffer from plaque and tartar on our teeth at some stage in our lives. Despite our best efforts, there will be some found on our teeth when we go for a check-up. Sometimes it can build up because of our toothbrushes not reaching it and other times it is just because there is too much collecting for us to be able to remove it. Plaque is sticky and does not have a color; so, it can be hard to see. It is a combination of bacteria, food and saliva sticking to the teeth – usually overnight. It tends to form along the line where the teeth meet the gums.
If you do not manage to get rid of the plaque, then there is a bigger problem you could face. When it starts to harden, it becomes what we refer to as tartar and this will be a lot harder to get rid of. Some people will be lucky and find that they only ever end up with a small amount while others can end up with so much that they require a lot of intervention from a dentist.
Why do we get plaque and calculus (tartar) build up?
The main reason that teeth show signs of plaque is because the teeth are not being properly cleaned. It does not mean that no effort is being made, just that not all the food and bacteria that is stuck to the teeth can be removed. Too often it is in a position where it cannot be reached and once it becomes hard, it is so difficult to remove with a standard toothbrush.
Who is affected by plaque and calculus (tartar)?
Anyone can be affected by plaque and tartar, although some will suffer more than others. If you do not clean your teeth well, it will start, and the lack of good cleaning will make it get worse. As a result, children will find they have it as they are not yet able to reach the parts of the teeth where it mostly occurs. It also seems that older people can suffer from it and this could be as they no longer take the same time, or maybe are not as aware of the change in color of their teeth due to failing eyesight. As teeth covered in plaque and tartar tend to range in color from yellow to brown, poorer eyes may not notice how bad it has become.
Although it is accepted that good oral hygiene will help prevent and fight against plaque and tartar, it is a dentist or dental hygienist who will have to remove it once it is in place. The reason for this is that untreated plaque will stick tightly to the enamel and require specialist instruments to remove it. As mentioned, it will take a dental professional to remove plaque as they will have the instruments and the knowledge of how to use them. If the plaque is removed, tartar will not be able to form, so the dentist will work to remove the plaque.
Preventing this kind of build up from happening
Cleaning your teeth will go a long way towards keeping your teeth plaque and tartar free, but it will not be enough on its own. To keep them in a condition that is good enough to stop plaque starting to form, there needs to be at least two cleans carried out at the dentist each year. Sometimes your dentist will carry it out, but there is no reason why it should not be the hygienist.
The toothpaste you use can make a difference, and one that has pyrophosphate in it will help with the job. It should also contain sodium hexametaphosphate that has been created to slow down the development of calculus. When they are used, it will be easier to keep the teeth clean and work towards breaking down stains that have collected on the enamel. Once that has been done, a barrier will be set up and it will be harder for plaque and tartar to cling to the teeth in the future.
Flossing is another way to limit the spread of the two problems. A small thread will be able to reach between the teeth in a way that a brush will not be able to. By flossing after each meal, you will be limiting the risk and making it easier for the professional to remove the small amount that may still build up.
As it can take as little as four hours after brushing for plaque to begin to build up, it is important to try and brush after every meal. Most people will remember to do this morning and night, but not all will do it at lunchtime. By the time the night time clean comes around, it could be 12 hours since lunch, and there may have been a few snacks as well as an evening meal since.
Why is it important to stop this build up from happening?
As well as looking unsightly when the teeth begin to stain and turn yellow and brown, if you allow plaque and tartar to stay on the teeth there can be further problems. If not treated, they can lead to holes developing in the teeth and this will require fillings and possibly something such as a crown or cap. As the teeth will be weakened, it can be expensive to correct.
The ideal way to have strong, clean and white teeth is to clean your teeth as diligently as you can, as well as getting help from your dentist when needed. You only get two sets of teeth, and one set of gums, and if you don’t look after them, they will not be there for you. It may seem to be a simple problem – plaque does not seem to be the biggest problem in the world – but once it has taken hold, it is going to take more than a new toothbrush and toothpaste to get rid of it. Once tartar has set in, it will be even harder to get rid of it and get your teeth back to the way that you want them. Depending on your amount of build up and health of your gum and bone you may need a regular cleaning or possible a deep cleaning to help.