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Throughout your life, you’ve been taught the importance of good oral hygiene habits, from brushing and flossing to regular cleanings with your dentist. It is likely that you were told that you needed to maintain such practices in order to avoid the buildup of plaque and tartar on your teeth. But what are those two dental boogeymen, why are they so bad, and what’s the difference between them?

What is Plaque?

Plaque is the sticky and colorless film that forms over the surface of teeth. It is formed primarily by trapped and hard to remove food particles, especially carbohydrates like sugar and starches and other food types known for contributing to tooth decay. Other factors, such as insufficient saliva production, certain medications, and pH imbalances can also contribute to plaque buildup.

Bacteria feast on plaque. The more plaque you have, the more bacteria will develop and fester. Ultimately, plaque can decay a tooth so much that cavities form. Eventually, bacteria may also make its way into the gums, spreading tooth decay to the root of the tooth and causing gum disease. That is why dentists so often emphasize the importance of minimizing and removing plaque buildup.

What is Tartar?

If plaque remains on the teeth long enough, it can harden to become tartar. Tartar is a hard, tenacious, yellow or brown substance that can be unsightly and painful. Sometimes referred to as “calculus,” tartar is actually just plaque that’s calcified, or hardened. The trouble with tartar is that it attaches to the enamel of your teeth, as well as below the gum line, and goes on to wreak havoc in a way that plaque does not. Tartar can cause tooth discoloration, tooth loss, cavities, gum recession, and gum disease.

While good oral hygiene habits can help keep plaque at bay, they won’t do much to help you get rid of tartar once it has built up and attached itself to your teeth. Only a thorough, professional cleaning by a dentist can properly rid your teeth of tartar.

The good news is that daily removal of plaque can prevent the development of tartar

altogether. Bushing, flossing, and oil pulling every morning and evening are just a few of the ways you can win the battle against plaque and avoid a war against tartar.

Assure A Smile: Miami Holistic Dentistry

At Assure A Smile, we work closely with our patients to help them develop healthy, natural, and effective oral hygiene habits as part of an overall wellness strategy and holistic healthcare approach. To learn more about the importance of holistic dentistry or to schedule an appointment, please contact us online or call us at 305-274-0047.

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