Plaque Vs Tartar – What Is The Difference?

plaque vs tartar henderson nv

Dental health commercials routinely use the words tartar and plaque but do you know the difference?

People and advertisements tend to use the terms interchangeably. While they are closely related, there is a definite difference between the two terms. 

What is Plaque?

Plaque is a sticky, soft, transparent film that accumulates on teeth and under gums. The bacteria contained inside plaque secrete harmful acids, which can cause several dental issues, including:

  • Increase In Tooth decay
  • Development Of Gum Disease (Gingivitis and Periodontitis)
  • Erosion Of Tooth Enamel 
  • Chronic Bad Breath 

This is why maintaining good dental hygiene is so vital. It would be best if you brushed at least twice a day and floss at least once per day to remove plaque buildup. 

Other recommendations to reduce plaque buildup include:

  • Use Of An Antibacterial Mouthwash
  • Stay Hydrated
  • Avoid Sugary Foods And Drink
  • Switch To An Electric Toothbrush 

What is Tartar?

When you allow for plaque buildup, it reacts with the minerals in your saliva and becomes what is known as tartar (also called calculus). Tartar can cause the following:

  • Trap stains in your smile
  • Cause tooth discoloration 
  • Irritate gum tissues
  • Cause inflammation leading to progressive gum disease 

Once you have developed tartar, you must seek professional teeth cleaning. Only a dental professional, like a dentist or hygienist, will be able to remove it during teeth cleanings to restore oral health. 

Some individuals are more prone to tartar development than others. You might be susceptible if you: 

  • Smoke – Studies show that people who smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products are more likely to have tartar.
  • Undergoing Traditional Orthodontic Treatment 
  • Senior
  • Genetics – Some people produce extra-mineralized saliva, which speeds up the hardening process of plaque. 

plaque vs tartar las vegas nv

Is Tartar Worse Than Plaque?

Plaque and tartar are the causes of many common dental issues. Research studies have found that roughly 70% of adults deal with some level of tartar, and the presence of plaque is simply inevitable. 

How Do Plaque And Tartar Affect Teeth and Gums?

Tartar can make it more difficult to brush and floss as you normal. This can lead to tooth decay and the development and progression of periodontal disease.

Any tartar that forms on your teeth can be detrimental to oral health. That is because the bacteria present in tartar can irritate and damage your gums. 

With time, this will lead to progressive gum disease.

The mildest form of gum disease is called gingivitis. It is stopped reversible with proper at-home care and regular dental visits (with a professional cleaning).

If left untreated, pockets will form between the gums and teeth and get infected by bacteria. This when it is called periodontitis. Your immune system will begin the inflammatory process resulting in damage to the bones and gum tissues. 

Some research also links the bacteria in gum disease to heart disease, diabetes, and other general health problems.

Preventing Plaque And Tartar With Regular Dental Appointments And Teeth Cleaning

Even for those with excellent at-home dental care, some plaque and tartar buildup is inevitable. Your dentist uses specialized dental cleaning techniques and instruments to remove plaque and tartar to avoid tooth decay, periodontal disease, or dental infections. 

Your dental cleaning treatment to remove plaque and tartar will depend on the amount built up and above or below the gumline.

Periodontal Examination

To effectively remove tartar and plaque, your dentist first has to know exactly where the deposits are located. Some of the deposits are visible above the gum line, while others will be below the gum line. 

During an exam, your dentist will take x-rays of your teeth to see the health of your teeth and gums. They will also look for tartar deposits below the gum line. 

They will also check to see if there are any abnormal periodontal pockets present. There is usually about 3mm of space between your teeth and the bone below. 

If the periodontal pockets are deeper than 3mm, it is a sign that gum disease has developed and will need further treatment.

Professional Teeth Cleaning

Your hygienist will use a topical anesthetic to make your visit comfortable. Your dentist or hygienist will use specialized dental tools to remove tartar from your teeth during your teeth cleaning. You may hear a scraping or grinding sound during the removal of the hardened tartar.

If the tartar is below or at the level of the gum tissue, you might notice some sensitivity, discomfort, or bleeding in your mouth. All of this is normal is a normal part of dental cleanings.

Scaling And Root Planing (Deep Cleaning)

Developing tartar that extends below the surface of your gums will require a more advanced teeth cleaning visit. Your dentist must remove this tartar because it could cause an infection in your tooth or the soft tissues in your mouth. 

The process of eliminating this deep tartar is called scaling and root planing or deep cleaning. You will be given a local anesthetic to relieve any discomfort this specialized teeth cleaning technique may cause. A deep cleaning can sometimes take multiple visits to treat gum disease properly.

Las Vegas Dentist Marielaina Perrone DDS 

Even if you maintain good oral hygiene are excellent, it is still important to see your dentist for checkups and your dental hygienist for regular dental cleanings every six months. With the right combination of home and professional care, you can keep your smile healthy for a lifetime!

If you are ready for a smile makeover, contact Marielaina Perrone DDS at (702) 458-2929 to schedule a no-cost cosmetic consultation appointment. We cannot wait to help you with your smile makeover to create your dream smile in Summerlin, Las Vegas, and Henderson, NV.