Imagine this scenario: an army approaches a walled fortress. The army begins with small numbers but quickly and steadily grows. The leader of the fortress sees this, but does nothing, because he is either too busy or doesn’t realize the magnitude of how big the army has actually become. Eventually, the fortress is taken.
You’d have to wonder, why didn’t the leader address the problem before it was too late?
Yes, the scenario is a bit dramatic, but you, too, may have a bit of an army on your doorstep. Everyone has bacteria inside their mouths, and that bacteria is constantly growing and looking to cause tooth decay and destroy your oral health. Even if you have a good dental hygiene routine, this bacteria is looking to pick a fight with your teeth and gums. Don’t be like the leader who waited until it was too late, combat this before it gets out of hand!
What is Plaque and Tartar?
When bacteria mix with proteins and food byproducts left in your mouth, a sticky substance called plaque is formed. This substance can coat your teeth, travel up underneath your gums, and stick to previous dental fillings.
If plaque is not removed, plaque may harden to become tartar, which is also known as calculus. Tartar is a rough and porous substance that is much more difficult to eliminate. In fact, once tartar has formed, your dentist will need to use special tools to remove it (you cannot do this at home on your own).
How Plaque and Tartar Affect Your Smile
Both plaque and tartar can wreak havoc on your teeth and gums. The bacteria in plaque damages tooth enamel, leading to more cavities.
Bigger problems arise when plaque hardens to tartar. Tartar can make it more difficult to brush and floss your teeth, causing greater plaque buildup. This, in turn, invites an opportunity for more tooth decay and cavities, resulting in a vicious cycle.
Tartar buildup also gives plaque more surface area for future growth and provides a stickier surface on which plaque can easily adhere to. Furthermore, when left unchecked, tartar can lead to progressive gum disease.
In its milder form, gum disease is called gingivitis. This can be managed, reversed and even stopped if you quickly adapt your oral hygiene routine to include brushing well and consistently, flossing, using an antiseptic mouthwash, and having your teeth regularly cleaned by your dentist.
Sometimes, however, tartar buildup under the gums creates pockets between the gum and tooth. When these pockets become infected by bacteria, a more severe form of gum disease occurs, called periodontitis. Periodontitis can cause serious damage to the connective tissues and bones that hold your teeth in place. In worse case scenarios, teeth can fall out because their foundation within the gums is unhealthy.
Lastly, tartar buildup is a cosmetic problem. Because tartar is more porous, it absorbs stains more easily. Coffees, teas, cigarette smoke, and other culprits are far more likely to stain teeth.
How Do I Know if I Have Tartar Buildup?
Although plaque is a colorless film of bacteria that is undetectable to the human eye, tartar is a mineral buildup that is easier to spot – as long as it is below the gumline. It is usually characterized by a yellow or brown color. If you suspect you have tartar encroaching on your smile, the only sure way to get rid of it is a visit to the dentist.
How To Prevent Tartar Buildup Between Dental Visits
Plaque and tartar can cause some pretty miserable side effects on your smile, but the good news is that these effects are preventable! Below are some simple ways you can avoid plaque and tartar buildup.
- Brush regularly for 2 minutes at a time, generally spending about 30 seconds in each quadrant of the mouth. Use a brush with soft bristles that is not too big for your mouth. Don’t forget to give hard-to-reach areas the same amount of attention and care as the rest of your mouth.
- Use an electric toothbrush. Studies have shown that electric toothbrushes are more effective at removing plaque than manual toothbrushes.
- Floss. Even if you’re amazing at brushing your teeth, only floss can remove plaque from between your teeth.
- Use a tartar control toothpaste. Check your toothpaste for key ingredients that will help you control plaque and tartar buildup. Ingredients like fluoride help repair enamel damage, and triclosan fights bacteria found in plaque.
- Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash. This will kill bacteria that causes plaque.
Quit smoking. Studies show that the likelihood for tartar buildup is far greater for smokers.
- Enjoy a healthy diet. Bacteria that cause plaque and tartar buildup love sugary and starchy foods. By moderating these in your diet, you “feed” the bacteria in your mouth less, restricting their reproduction and damaging effects.
It’s Never Too Late!
If you’re suspicious that an army of bacteria, plaque, and tartar are trying to destroy your teeth, then call in the cavalry and schedule a cleaning with your dentist. No matter how healthy or unhealthy your mouth currently is, a visit to a dentist can really help your smile and defend against tooth decay.
If you’re near Cumming, GA, the team at Bragg Dental can assess your current situation and work with you to treat or prevent any tartar buildup using state of the art services to suit your individual needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and get help fighting against tooth decay.