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When you run your tongue along the bottom of your teeth, you can feel a sticky film coating your pearly whites. This film hardens into tartar if it is left to build on your teeth. This film becomes crusty once it hardens. While plaque is colorless, tartar is not. Tartar, or calculus, is what happens when calcium and phosphate bind together to form crystals on your teeth. It forms above your gum line and can irritate and damage your gum tissue. Eventually this could lead to gum disease.

Everyone has bacteria in their mouth, and this bacteria reacts with sugar and starches you eat and drink to produce acids which erode tooth enamel. If left alone, this sticky film hardens fairly quickly into tartar. Plaque starts forming four to twelve hours after you brush your teeth. Once it hardens into tartar, it becomes a crusty deposit which traps stains on your teeth. After tartar bonds to your teeth it will take a dental professional using special scaling instruments to remove.

Steps You Can Take to Avoid Tartar Buildup:

— Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes. Less time than that cannot effectively remove plaque. Be meticulous with the back molars as they get a lot of the food particles from chewing. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush so that you can scrub near the gums and gum line.

— Consider using a powered toothbrush. Research has shown they are more effective at removing plaque than manual toothbrushes. They can reach the back better than a manual one, and scrub them easier. They are especially helpful for people with limited manual dexterity, such as children and older people with health issues (like arthritis).

— If you are prone to tartar, you can find a tartar-control toothpaste, and preferably one with fluoride, as fluoride helps repair tooth enamel damage. Tartar control toothpastes help keep plaque from developing into hardened tartar, and you can look for the ADA seal of approval as it means the product has been rigorously tested and found to be safe as well as effective.

— Floss! No toothbrush can reach the space between teeth and near the gum line as floss can. Floss thoroughly at least once each day.

— Another helpful tool to prevent plaque is mouthwash. You can find a good antiseptic mouthwash to help remove bacteria that might turn into plaque. Again, choose an ADA approved product for your protection.

— Eating a healthy diet and limiting snacking between meals, especially sugary, starchy foods that encourage bacterial growth will go a long way to protect teeth and gums.

— Don’t skip out on dental cleanings. Have your teeth cleaned at least once a year. Ideally, twice a year cleanings remove tartar and prevent gum disease.

At Dr. Sami Nouhad’s dental office, we are here to help your teeth and gums stay strong for a lifetime. Please call our team with any questions you may have, or to schedule your next cleaning. We can be reached at 323-466-3541.