Is It Plaque Or Tartar?

beach-blondPlaque and tartar are both bad for your teeth, but do you know which is which? They are connected, but they aren’t the same thing.  Here’s what you need to know.


The bacteria that builds up in your mouth creates a clear, sticky film that coats the surface of your teeth. It gets all over your teeth and gums and it is constantly forming in your mouth.

This sticky, colorless film on your teeth is plaque.

Plaque can contribute to tooth decay and other oral health problems. It can also cause acid to form in your mouth that in turn breaks down your enamel and leaves you even more vulnerable to tooth decay. It forms within 4 hours of brushing your teeth, but it can be removed.


When plaque is left in your mouth, it mixes with minerals in saliva and hardens into tartar (also sometimes called calculus). Tartar is too hard to be removed with tooth normal brushing and it can trap bacteria in your mouth and lead to gum disease, cavities, and more.

Tartar, like plaque can get all over your teeth, but it is usually noticeable near the gum line. It is a hard, yellowish looking substance that is relatively easy to identify.

Keeping Your Teeth Clean

It is important to remove plaque from your teeth before it hardens into tartar. To keep plaque off of your teeth, drink plenty of water to rinse out your mouth, brush your teeth after each meal, floss every single day, and use a mouthwash that kills bacteria.

If plaque does turn into tartar you’ll need to schedule a professional cleaning at your dentist’s office. The longer tartar is left in your mouth, the more it can damage your teeth and your gums. Your dentist will have tools that can scrape away the tartar and get your teeth cleaned. Visiting your dentist for regular cleanings is also a good way to prevent tartar from building up in the first place.

If you’d like to learn more about keeping your teeth clean and healthy, schedule an appointment with Dr. Devin Okay.

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