Conditions,  Health

Tartar (Dental Calculus) – Treatment Removal at Home Remover, Definition Meaning, Causes

Tartar, or dental calculus, is a common oral health issue that significantly impacts teeth and gums. Formed from dental plaque that has hardened over time, tartar can lead to various dental problems, including gum disease and tooth decay. Understanding tartar formation, its effects, and the importance of proper oral hygiene is crucial for maintaining healthy teeth.

Key Facts

  • Tartar, also known as dental calculus, is a hard, crusty deposit that forms on the teeth
  • Tartar is formed from plaque, a soft, sticky substance that accumulates on the teeth
  • Plaque and tartar contain bacteria, which can lead to various oral health issues if not removed
  • Professional dental cleaning is necessary to remove tartar

What is Tartar?

Tartar, scientifically known as dental calculus, is a hardened, calcified deposit that forms on tooth surfaces. It originates from dental plaque, a sticky film primarily composed of bacteria, salivary proteins, food particles, and calcium phosphate. When plaque is not removed regularly, it mixes with minerals in the saliva, leading to calculus formation.

Types of Tartar

Tartar can form above or below the gum line. When tartar accumulates below the gum line, it is particularly concerning as it can contribute to gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis.

  1. Supragingival Calculus: Deposits that form above the gum line.
  2. Subgingival Calculus: Forms below the gum line on the tooth root and is often more problematic.

What is Tartar Made Of?

Tartar is primarily composed of calcium phosphate mineral salts, food particles, and several types of bacteria. When plaque stays on the teeth for a prolonged period, the minerals in the saliva cause the plaque to harden and turn into tartar. The structure of tartar is porous, which makes it an ideal place for bacteria to thrive.

What Are the Symptoms of Tartar on Teeth?

Tartar can vary in color from yellow or brown to a darkened color near the gums.
The symptoms and signs of tartar buildup on teeth include:

  • Visible Deposits: Tartar may appear as a brown or yellowish deposit at the base of teeth or along the gumline.
  • Rough Texture: You might feel a rough or crusty texture behind your lower front teeth, which is a common area for tartar accumulation.
  • Gum Problems: Tartar buildup can cause the gums to recede or become red, swollen, and bleed easily, which are symptoms of gingivitis.
  • Bad Breath: Chronic bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth can be associated with tartar buildup and the bacteria it harbors.
  • Tooth Sensitivity: Teeth may become sensitive to hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks due to tartar accumulation near the gums.
  • Staining: Tartar can cause staining and discoloration of the teeth.

Since tartar can be challenging to detect in the early stages, regular dental check-ups are essential for identifying and managing tartar buildup before it leads to more serious dental problems.

Prevention: How to Prevent Tartar Buildup?

Preventing tartar buildup is crucial for maintaining good oral health.
Here are some steps to help prevent the formation of tartar:

  • Regular Brushing: These are critical to remove plaque regularly and prevent tartar buildup. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Consider using an electric toothbrush, which can be more effective at cleaning teeth.
  • Regular Flossing: Using dental floss helps to clean between teeth where a toothbrush can’t reach. Floss daily to remove plaque from between your teeth and under the gum line, where your toothbrush can’t reach.
  • Oral Hygiene Products: Using tartar control toothpaste and mouthwashes with sodium bicarbonate can help to kill bacteria and slow down the formation of tartar. Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash once a day to reduce the bacteria that cause plaque.
  • Regular Dental Cleanings: Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and check-ups. Dental professionals use hand instruments and ultrasonic tools to remove tartar, which cannot be eliminated by brushing and flossing alone.
  • Periodontal Therapy: In cases of severe tartar buildup leading to gum disease, treatments like root planing and scaling may be necessary.
  • Dietary Choices: Limiting foods high in sugars and starch granules can reduce plaque and tartar formation.

Remember that once tartar has formed, it can only be removed by a dental professional. This is why prevention through good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups is so important. The American Dental Association (ADA) emphasizes the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups to prevent and manage tartar buildup effectively.

Does tartar smell bad?

Yes, tartar can smell bad. Dental tartar, or calculus, is a hardened buildup of plaque on the teeth. Plaque contains bacteria, and as the bacteria break down food particles, they release substances that can cause a foul smell. When plaque hardens into tartar, it can trap even more bacteria and food particles, which can worsen bad breath or halitosis.

What causes mouth tartar – Risk factors for tartar?

Mouth tartar is primarily caused by the accumulation of dental plaque, which is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth. Plaque can harden into tartar if not regularly removed.
Risk factors for tartar build-up include:

  • Poor oral hygiene: Not brushing and flossing regularly or effectively.
  • Diet: Consuming sugary or starchy foods and drinks that can promote plaque formation.
  • Smoking and tobacco use: These habits can increase the buildup of plaque and tartar.
  • Dry mouth: Saliva helps to clean the teeth and reduce plaque; dry mouth can contribute to tartar formation.
  • Genetics: Some individuals may be genetically predisposed to more tartar formation.
  • Age: Older individuals often have more tartar buildup.
  • Misaligned teeth: It may be harder to clean between crooked or crowded teeth.

What are the complications of having tartar on your teeth?

If tartar is not properly managed, it can lead to various dental problems, such as:

  • Gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis): Tartar buildup can irritate and inflame the gums. Tartar’s rough and hardened surface provides an ideal surface for further plaque formation, contributing to gum inflammation (inflamed gingiva) and periodontal disease. These conditions can lead to bone loss and tooth loss if left untreated.
  • Tooth decay: Tartar can harbor bacteria that produce acids, which can lead to cavities. Calculus buildup can damage tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay. The rough surface of tartar also makes it more difficult to remove new plaque and bacteria, exacerbating the issue.
  • Bad breath: As mentioned earlier, the bacteria in tartar can produce foul-smelling substances.
  • Tooth discoloration: Tartar can stain teeth, making them look yellow or brown.
  • Tooth loss: Severe gum disease and tooth decay caused by tartar can result in tooth loss.

How do dentists diagnose tartar?

Dentists diagnose tartar through a visual examination of the teeth and gums. Tartar is usually visible as a yellow or brownish deposit at the gum line or between teeth. A dentist or dental hygienist might also use a dental instrument to feel for tartar on the teeth. In some cases, dental X-rays may be used to evaluate the extent of tartar buildup and check for underlying gum disease or tooth decay.

How do you treat tartar?

The removal of tartar is usually performed by a dentist or dental hygienist through a process called scaling. During scaling, specialized instruments are used to scrape away tartar from the surface of the teeth. In some cases, ultrasonic instruments may be used to break apart tartar deposits. This is typically done during a regular dental cleaning. For more severe cases of tartar buildup and gum disease, a deep cleaning known as root planing may be necessary.
It’s important to follow good oral hygiene practices, such as brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and regular dental check-ups, to prevent tartar buildup. Additionally, reducing the consumption of sugary foods and drinks, and not using tobacco products, can help in preventing tartar formation.

What happens if I don’t remove tartar?

If you don’t remove tartar, it can lead to various oral health problems. The bacteria in tartar can cause gum inflammation, leading to gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis. Tartar build-up can also contribute to cavities, tooth decay, and bad breath. In severe cases, it can cause tooth loss or infections that can affect overall health.

How often should I see my dentist for tartar removal?

It is recommended to see a dentist for a regular check-up and cleaning every six months. However, some people might need to visit more frequently, depending on their oral health status. Factors such as a history of gum disease, a tendency for tartar buildup, or other health issues might necessitate more frequent dental visits.

Plaque vs. tartar: What’s the difference?

Plaque is a soft, sticky film that builds up on your teeth and contains millions of bacteria. It’s colorless and can be easily removed by regular brushing and flossing. Tartar, on the other hand, is hardened plaque. When plaque stays on the teeth for a long time and combines with minerals in saliva, it hardens into tartar. Tartar is more porous and can be yellow or brown. It’s much more difficult to remove and usually requires professional dental cleaning.

Why is tartar breaking off my teeth?

If tartar is breaking off your teeth, it might be because it has accumulated to a significant extent, and certain actions like brushing, eating, or flossing are causing it to break away. This could also indicate that the tartar is very calcified or that there is a weakening of the attachment between the tartar and the tooth surface. While it might seem like a good thing, it’s essential to visit a dentist, as this might indicate an underlying dental issue.

Why do I have black tartar on my teeth?

Black tartar on teeth, also known as black calculus, can be caused by various factors such as consuming dark-colored foods and beverages (like coffee, tea, or red wine), using tobacco products, or poor oral hygiene. Sometimes, the tartar can get stained by the chromogenic bacteria or by minerals in the saliva.

Bottom line

Maintaining good oral hygiene through regular brushing and flossing is key to preventing plaque and tartar buildup. It’s important to see a dentist regularly for professional cleanings and check-ups to ensure your oral health is in good condition. Ignoring tartar buildup can lead to severe dental problems, including gum disease and tooth loss. Be mindful of your diet and avoid tobacco use for better oral health.

This article is complete and was published on July 11, 2023, and last updated on December 24, 2023.

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