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What Are Plaque and Tartar?

What Are Plaque and Tartar?

Tartar and plaque. You’ve probably heard these two terms when discussing your oral health. Sometimes, you might even hear them used interchangeably. But what exactly are they, and are they the same thing?

Plaque and tartar aren’t the same thing, and while they are related, it’s crucial to understand the difference. At Downtown Dental Studios, we love making sure our patients are in the know when it comes to these critical terms.

Our providers, Fadi Beydoun, DMD, MSAlexander Kimon, DMD, and Karina Zaygermakher, DMD, can offer you treatments for dealing with the aftermath of plaque and tartar problems. But the most important thing you can do for yourself is learn all you can to practice the best oral care at home. 

Plaque 101 

First off, let’s learn about plaque. Plaque is a sticky residue that builds up on the tooth enamel. Unlike you may have thought, it’s common; in fact, everyone has it. That’s because some plaque on your teeth throughout the day is unavoidable. 

Plaque is the combination of bacteria, saliva, and food particles. Since you can’t brush your teeth every minute of every day, there will always be some plaque building up on your teeth. The substance is sticky but soft, so your toothbrush can easily do away with it. 

Plaque isn’t visible, but it may feel fuzzy on your teeth. The best way to deal with plaque is to follow good oral health techniques. These include: 

So, that’s the deal with plaque. But then, what’s tartar? 

Tartar 101 

Tartar is similar to plaque, but there’s one very crucial distinction: it’s worse. Tartar is what happens when you don’t catch the plaque building up on your teeth during its soft, sticky phase. When it hardens, then it becomes tartar. 

Unlike plaque, which is colorless and generally can’t be identified on sight, tartar is sometimes yellow or brown and may be noticeable on your teeth. As you may have guessed, tartar is hard means you can’t just brush your teeth and easily dislodge it. 

Tartar is also sometimes called calculus, and it’s made mostly of inorganic material. Those who don’t take care of their teeth properly using the techniques mentioned above will most likely develop tartar. 

The big difference between plaque and tartar

You shouldn’t be too nervous about whether or not you have plaque. Simply brush your teeth, floss gently, and use an antibacterial mouthwash to deal with it. And remember, the process of removing plaque is an ongoing one. You should always be working to manage this situation with good oral care at home. 

Tartar, however, is a much more serious issue. Those who have already seen tartar build-up on their teeth will need a professional dentist to do a cleaning. You can’t remove tartar yourself at home.

Still, you might be wondering why you need to bother with regular cleanings whether you have tartar or not. Well, regular cleanings are a part of managing normal plaque. In addition, they are the only way you can get rid of tartar, which will cause even more problems if allowed to fester, including periodontitis, tooth decay, and more.

Manage plaque; avoid tartar 

The mantra above will help you keep both of these terms straight and know how to keep your mouth healthy and clean in the long run. 

Do you need a professional dental cleaning? Visit our Financial District office in New York City for an appointment. Simply call us at 212-964-3337 or book a time online.

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