What is plaque?
Dental plaque is a sticky film that adheres to teeth. It consists
of food debris, saliva, and dead cells. Some types of plaque cause
tooth decay. Other types of plaque cause gum disease. Plaque builds up
on the tooth surface and gum line every day. If plaque is not removed,
it can harden and form tartar (calculus).
What is tartar?
Dental tartar (calculus) is essentially solidified plaque. It is a
hard, stone-like material, usually creamy yellow to black in color.
Dental tartar cannot be removed by regular brushing. Tartar removal
should be performed by your dentist or dental hygienist.
plaque and tartar removed by my dentist or dental hygienist?
Your dentist or dental hygienist will perform a regular or deep
cleaning to remove plaque and tartar. The amount of plaque and tartar
buildup determines whether a regular or deep cleaning is required to
effectively clean your teeth.
A regular cleaning (prophylaxis) involves scaling and polishing
procedures that remove plaque, tartar (calculus), and stains from the
exposed areas of teeth. The scaling process scrapes away bacterial
plaque and tartar from the tooth. In a regular cleaning, scaling is
performed on the part of the tooth that is exposed above the gum line.
A deep cleaning is a periodontic procedure used to treat
early-stage periodontal (gum) disease. The dentist,
periodontist (gum specialist), or dental hygienist removes the plaque through a
deep-cleaning method that combines scaling and root planing. Scaling
is performed above and below the gum line to remove plaque and tartar.
Root planing gets rid of rough spots on the tooth where germs gather, and helps remove bacteria that contribute to
What happens if plaque and tartar is not removed?
If plaque and tartar buildup is not addressed, you may develop
periodontal (gum) disease. Red, puffy or bleeding gums can be the
first signs of gum disease. If gum disease is not treated, the tissues
holding the teeth in place are destroyed and the teeth are eventually
How do I reduce plaque and tartar in my mouth?
Here are some things you can do to reduce plaque buildup and the
formation of tartar:
- Brush your teeth twice a day (with a fluoride toothpaste)
- Floss every day
- Visit the dentist routinely for a check-up and professional
- Eat a well balanced diet
- Don't use tobacco products
© 2003. All Rights Reserved.
Last Reviewed August 2005