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Tartar is hardened dental plaque. When plaque is not removed, it combines with minerals in the saliva and calcifies.
Tartar is also called dental calculus. It is porous and stains easily, which gives it a yellow or brown appearance. Not only is this unsightly, but it can also cause a variety of health issues.
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When plaque turns into calculus, or tartar, it needs to be removed by a dental professional.
Unremoved tartar can impact oral health in a number of ways:
Dental professionals are able to safely and effectively clean hard-to-reach areas in the mouth with:
Dentists are trained in how to use tartar removal tools. They will typically use metal instruments to scrape the tartar from the surface of teeth.
If the tartar is extensive, you may need a procedure called root planing. This is where the dentist removes tartar that has built up below the gumline.
In addition to the treatments above, here are some other preventive treatments dentists offer:
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Once plaque mineralizes and hardens into tartar, it is not safe or easy to remove at home.
Many tools are available to buy in stores and online, but they are ineffective against tartar when not used by a trained dental professional. In fact, they are easy to use incorrectly and can cause damage if misused.
However, removing dental plaque is easy to do at home. By keeping your mouth free of plaque, you can stop tartar from forming. If tartar is already present, you’ll need to visit a dentist for a professional teeth cleaning.
You can easily remove plaque before it hardens into tartar. Follow these steps:
Here are other ways to prevent plaque and tartar buildup:
Visiting the dentist regularly does help to prevent tartar building up, but it should not be used as a replacement for good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush at least twice a day for a minimum of two minutes. This is equal to around four seconds per tooth.6
Flossing removes plaque stuck between teeth and improves oral health.
If you’re unable to brush your teeth after eating, chewing gum sweetened with sorbitol or xylitol is a good alternative. Research shows that this type of gum can help reduce plaque. However, avoid gum that contains sugar, as this can cause cavities. 8
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends visiting a dentist at least once a year for checkups.2 The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends increasing frequency if you have any oral health concerns. 6
Dentists are doctors of oral health. This means they deal with disease prevention and treatment. Therefore, you should have frequent check ups to keep your mouth healthy, rather than just visiting when something is wrong. Your dentist can recommend how often to see them by examining your overall oral health.
You should schedule an appointment with your dentist if you notice any of the following signs:
Tartar forms when plaque hardens and combines with minerals in the saliva. It can be yellow or brown, and can cause a lot of damage to the teeth and gums. It also leads to serious oral health conditions like periodontitis if left untreated.
You should never try to use dental tools to remove tartar at home. But there are effective ways to prevent it. For example, fluoride toothpaste and antibacterial mouthwash fight against plaque-causing bacteria. Brushing and flossing regularly also prevent plaque build up, thus preventing tartar formation.
It’s essential to visit your dentist twice a year for professional teeth cleanings and scaling to remove any tartar build up.
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