What is the Difference Between Plaque and Tartar?

Dental Health, Brushing Best Practices

Plaque and tartar are essentially a result of the same initial problem - bacteria.

So what’s the difference? Here is some helpful insight...

Plaque is a soft and sticky bacterial substance made of things that accumulate on your teeth daily - food, sugar, and saliva are a few examples. Plaque is easily removed by brushing, but can cause cavities, periodontal disease, and gingivitis if regular brushing and flossing is neglected.

One of the biggest hazards of plaque is its acidity, which causes harm to tooth enamel. When the enamel is worn away, prime real estate for a cavity has been developed.

Tartar, or calculus, is hardened plaque that cannot be removed by brushing. Professional cleanings with instruments (scaling) are the only way to eliminate tartar.

While plaque is basically colorless, tartar has a yellow-brownish appearance, preventing your smile from being its brightest and best. 

If left unmanaged, bacteria can continue to grow inside the porous surface of tartar, causing further damage to your teeth and gums. If tartar creeps beneath the gum line, a more invasive cleaning procedure such as scaling and root planing may be necessary.

As always, the best way to beat bacteria and maintain excellent oral hygiene is through daily brushing and flossing.

Fargo’s South University Dental is always happy to serve your smile.

Even for those with most commendable hygiene, regular cleanings are essential for vital teeth and gums and should be scheduled every six months. Are you overdue? Email our office or call (701) 232-8884. One of our friendly team members will happily help you schedule a convenient appointment time.