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Plaque and Tartar; What’s the Difference?

Many patients ask me, “What is the difference between Plaque and Tartar?”

Plaque is a sticky substance made from leftover food, saliva and bacteria. If plaque is not removed, it calcifies and becomes tartar. The bacteria in plaque causes cavities and gum disease. It is necessary to brush and floss at least 2 times a day to keep plaque down to a minimum thus reducing the amount of tartar. Watching your diet is also important in plaque control. Sugary, starchy, sticky foods create more plaque that break down the enamel than other foods like fruits and vegetables. The bacteria in plaque cause redness and inflammation of the gums leading to gum disease. Seeing your dentist as recommended is also important to remove any tartar that could lead to bone loss around your teeth. Therefore, plaque is soft and can be removed at home and tartar is calcified plaque that your hygienist removes during your dental cleaning. I hope that help clears up any confusion between plaque and tartar.


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