If you’ve had your teeth cleaned, you’ve probably heard your hygienist say “you’ve got a little tartar buildup right here” followed by her seeming to work away at an unknown area in your mouth until she’s convinced that it’s all gone. With the use of ultrasonic instruments, tartar removal is now easier and more comfortable, but a lot of patients are still left wondering, “what is this tartar anyway, and what is causing it?”
Tartar (technically called calculus) is simply calcified plaque bacteria. That is, it’s plaque, which wasn’t removed in a timely manner and had the chance to calcify into place, buildup in layers of deposit on specific areas of your mouth. Typically tartar will build up in the areas nearest your salivary glands, which are inside of the lower front teeth, and the cheek side of your upper back molars. Usually tartar is white or yellow in color, but it can also pick up stains and become black, green or brown.
Not only does tartar look displeasing or compromise your breath, it can also cause you to lose your teeth. Heavy tartar buildup occurs at the gumlines and under the gums on the roots of your teeth. This active area of infection creates a reaction in your body which causes swelling, bleeding, and bone loss. If it isn’t removed regularly, periodontal disease will develop and your teeth can become mobile or fall out.
It’s impossible to remove tartar at home, so the best thing to do is prevent it from building up by practicing great oral hygiene. Even then, you’ll most likely have a small amount of tartar here and there, but routine cleanings at your dentist office can prevent significant problems later on.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Scott Merritt, BridgeMill Dentistry
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