Understanding Dental Hygiene: What Is the Difference Between Tartar and Plaque?

Everyone has been there.

You were in a rush and forgot to brush your teeth this morning. Now you’re worried about your breath, and your teeth are starting to get a slippery feel as you move your tongue across them.

There’s a thin film starting to form on and between your teeth. Is it plaque? Is it tartar? What is tartar anyway?

Keep reading to find out the difference between tartar and plaque and how you can treat or prevent buildup.

What’s the Difference Between Tartar and Plaque?

When it comes to tartar vs plaque on teeth, they are very similar in composition. However, there are several important differences between them.

What Is Plaque?

Plaque on teeth is the thin film that forms when you forget to brush your teeth. It can start to form within a few hours after you finish brushing, especially if you eat something.

Plaque can be sticky or slippery and is either transparent or a slight yellow in color. Although plaque is mostly made of saliva and food particles, it also harbors bacteria that can damage your teeth.

When bacteria consume the carbohydrates in the small food particles stuck on your teeth, they naturally release acid that can eat away at the enamel in your teeth. Over time, this loss of enamel can lead to cavities and other tooth damage.

This is why it is important to remove plaque from your teeth periodically. Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once a day will keep the plaque from building up and damaging your teeth.

What Is Tartar?

When it comes to plaque vs tartar, tartar is very similar to plaque. In fact, tartar is just plaque that has been stuck on your teeth for a long time. If you don’t get rid of plaque by brushing your teeth regularly, it can turn into tartar.

If left alone for a while, plaque on your teeth can start to collect minerals and become hard and stickier. It is the addition of these minerals that make plaque become tartar. Tartar build-up can be problematic for a number of reasons.

Because it is hard and sticky, tartar makes it easy for even more plaque to form, which can damage your teeth faster. In addition, this makes tartar very difficult to remove.

Tartar is so hard and sticky that you can’t just remove it with a toothbrush and toothpaste. You have to go to the dentist to have the tartar removed. Leaving tartar on your teeth for too long can lead to cavities, tooth decay, and even gum disease.

This is one reason why it is incredibly important to visit a dentist every few months to get a regular cleaning.

Next Steps

Now that you know all about the difference between tartar and plaque, it might be time to make an appointment to have your teeth cleaned.

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