Dental Hygiene Glossary: Tartar

Dental Hygiene Glossary: Tartar

Understanding Tartar

What Is Tartar?

Tartar, or dental calculus, is a hard deposit that forms on teeth from unremoved plaque.

Effects Of Tartar

Tartar can lead to cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss if not managed with a high-quality toothbrush and other essential tools.


Tartar appears as yellow or brown spots near the gumline and can feel rough.


Regular brushing, flossing, and professional cleanings are key to preventing tartar buildup. Proper oral hygiene and professional care can minimize the risks associated with tartar, promoting a healthy smile.

Formation And Causes

The process of tartar formation begins with the buildup of dental plaque on teeth, which consists of bacteria, food particles, saliva, and other substances. Plaque feeds on sugars and starches from food, producing acids that can harm tooth enamel and lead to cavities. When plaque is not removed through proper brushing and flossing, such as with Plus Ultra Floss, it hardens into tartar due to minerals in saliva.

Several factors can worsen tartar formation, such as:

  • Irregular brushing and flossing
  • Eating sugary or starchy foods
  • Having a dry mouth
  • Tobacco use
  • Genetic predisposition or aging

Practicing oral hygiene, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding sugary foods can help prevent tartar buildup and maintain oral health.


The Role Of Diet In Tartar Prevention

Your dietary choices play a pivotal role in oral health, influencing not just the development of tartar but also the overall well-being of your teeth and gums. Incorporating more fruits, vegetables, and foods high in fiber can stimulate saliva production. Saliva is nature's way of washing away food particles and neutralizing harmful acids, protecting your teeth from decay and tartar. 

Additionally, dairy products such as cheese, milk, and yogurt benefit oral health. They are rich in calcium and phosphates, which help remineralize teeth and strengthen the enamel, offering additional defense against tartar buildup.

Drinking plenty of water is another dietary habit that aids in minimizing tartar formation. Water helps in rinsing away food particles and bacteria from the mouth, reducing the risk of plaque and tartar. Crunchy fruits and vegetables, like apples, carrots, and celery, act as natural toothbrushes, scrubbing your teeth gently as you chew and helping to remove plaque.

Signs And Symptoms

Detecting tartar buildup early can prevent dental issues. Be aware of these signs:

  • Rough Texture: Gritty feel on teeth, especially near gums
  • Discoloration: Yellow or brown stains that won't brush off
  • Gum Issues: Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • Bad Breath: Persistent bad breath or bad taste
  • Gum Recession: Gums receding from teeth

If you notice these, see a dentist promptly for treatment to prevent complications and maintain oral health.

Daily Dental Hygiene Tips

Brush Properly

To maintain good oral health, brush your teeth twice daily for two minutes using a soft-bristled toothbrush and high-quality toothpaste. Use gentle circular motions to cover all surfaces of your teeth.

Floss Daily

Floss once daily to reach areas your toothbrush can't, removing food particles and plaque. Be gentle to avoid hurting your gums.

Use Mouthwash

Incorporate an antiseptic mouthwash into your routine to kill bacteria contributing to plaque and tartar buildup. Rinse for 30 seconds to a minute daily.

Balanced Diet

To maintain healthy teeth and gums, eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains while limiting sugary snacks and drinks.

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water throughout the day to wash away food particles and bacteria, promote saliva production, and neutralize harmful acids in your mouth.

Avoid Tobacco

Quit smoking or using tobacco products to reduce the risk of tartar buildup and gum disease, improving your overall oral health.

Tartar-Control Toothpaste

Choose a high-quality toothpaste with control properties to help fight tartar buildup and protect your teeth.

Replace Your Toothbrush

To ensure effective plaque removal, replace your toothbrush or head every three to four months or sooner if the bristles are worn out.

Daily Dental Hygiene Tips

Tartar Prevention Strategies

  1. Regular Dental Check-Ups: Schedule yearly cleanings to remove tartar and check for gum disease.
  2. Proper Brushing Techniques: For effective brushing, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush your teeth in circular motions for two minutes twice daily.
  3. Choose The Right Toothpaste: Use quality toothpaste with tartar control to prevent tartar formation.
  4. Floss Daily: Floss once daily to remove plaque between teeth and under the gumline.
  5. Rinse With Mouthwash: An antiseptic mouthwash can reduce bacteria that contribute to plaque.
  6. Quit Smoking: Tobacco use increases tartar buildup risk; quit smoking for better oral health.
  7. Dental Sealants: Sealants on back teeth can act as a barrier against plaque buildup.

What To Expect During A Professional Dental Cleaning

Scheduling a professional dental cleaning is a proactive step toward maintaining optimal dental health and preventing tartar buildup. Understanding what to expect during a dental cleaning can help alleviate anxieties and prepare you for a smooth dental appointment.

  • Comprehensive Examination: Start with a thorough mouth exam to check for oral health issues.
  • Plaque And Tartar Removal: Special tools, such as scalers and ultrasonic devices, remove plaque and tartar. This process can help prevent gum disease.
  • Teeth Polishing: A high-powered brush and toothpaste-like substance remove surface stains.
  • Flossing: Flossing to clean between teeth and check for any issues.
  • Education: Receive personalized advice on improving oral hygiene and product recommendations.
  • Benefits: Achieve a cleaner, healthier smile with valuable insights on maintaining oral health. Scheduled cleanings every six months can prevent dental issues.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is tartar, and how does it form?

Tartar, or calculus, is a hard, calcified deposit on the teeth when plaque, a sticky film of food debris, bacteria, and saliva, is not removed through regular brushing and flossing. Tartar forms below and above the gum line and can only be removed by a dental professional.

How can tartar affect my dental health?

Tartar buildup can lead to several dental health issues, including cavities, gum disease, tooth loss, and bad breath. Since it creates a rough surface, tartar can make plaque easier to stick to the teeth, further exacerbating dental problems.

What's the difference between tartar and plaque?

Plaque is a soft, sticky film that forms constantly on your teeth, consisting mainly of bacteria. If not removed, it can harden into tartar within 24 to 72 hours. Unlike plaque, which can be brushed and flossed away at home, tartar is hard and firmly attached to the tooth surface, requiring professional removal.

Can tartar be removed at home?

No, once plaque has hardened into tartar, it cannot be removed with regular brushing and flossing at home. Only a dental professional can safely and effectively remove tartar using specialized tools.

Why is it important to prevent tartar buildup?

Preventing tartar buildup is crucial for maintaining good oral health. If not addressed, tartar can lead to cavities, gum disease, and other dental issues. It also provides a rough surface that allows plaque and bacteria to adhere more easily, making it harder to keep teeth clean.

How does tartar contribute to gum disease?

Tartar buildup at the gum line creates an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. These bacteria can irritate and infect the gums, leading to gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. If left untreated, this can progress to more severe forms of gum disease, like periodontitis, which can cause tooth loss.

What are the signs of tartar buildup?

Signs of tartar buildup include yellow or brown stains on the teeth, especially near the gum line, bad breath, and a rough feeling on the teeth. More severe cases may lead to bleeding, swelling, or receding gums.

What professional treatments remove tartar?

Dentists and dental hygienists remove tartar through scaling and root planing. Scaling involves removing tartar from above and below the gum line, while root planing smooths out rough spots where germs gather, helping to remove bacteria that contribute to gum disease.

How often should I get a dental cleaning to prevent tartar?

Most dental professionals recommend cleaning every six months to effectively prevent tartar buildup. However, individuals at higher risk for dental diseases may need more frequent cleanings.

What tools do dentists use to remove tartar?

Dentists and dental hygienists use tools to remove tartar, including manual scalers, ultrasonic scalers, and lasers. Manual scalers are hand-held instruments used to scrape off tartar, while ultrasonic scalers use high-frequency vibrations to break up tartar. Lasers can be utilized for more precise tartar removal and are often used in advanced gum disease treatments.