May 22, 2012

Plaque And Tartar Control

Patients often confuse plaque and tartar and how they relate to each other. 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 factor in gum (periodontal) disease.  Fighting plaque is a life-long component of oral care. 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.

Plaque which is not removed by regular brushing and flossing can harden into tartar (also called calculus).  This crusty deposit creates a cohesive bond that can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist. Tartar formation may also make it more difficult for you to remove new plaque and bacteria. 

You can help reduce the formation of calculus by brushing with the correct technique so that the toothbrush bristles go beneath the gums and by flossing on a daily basis. Having the appropriate interval between professional cleanings is also important. Not everyone forms calculus at the same rate, so some people need more professional help than others.

If there is any sign of gum disease, the research has shown that the ideal interval between professional cleanings is 3 months. Plaque is a collection of different bacteria and as it matures it colonizes and reaches the stage of being destructive to gums and dental bone at 3 months. When you have a professional cleaning at 3 month intervals you are disrupting the bacterial colonies and are basically making them start all over again, thereby stopping or at least slowing down the harm plaque bacteria can cause.

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