Yes, there is absolutely a difference between plaque and tartar. Often times people have these terms confused. They may believe that plaque and tartar are terms that can be used interchangeably. However, they are different in a subtle way, but as dentists in Downtown, Los Angeles we’ll educate you on the differences. It may even motivate you to brush!

The Difference Between Plaque and Tartar

Plaque is often described as a sticky film that builds up overtime on the teeth. It bears no color and therefore makes it very difficult to see. But for our sake, assume that it’s always within your mouth despite how closely you analyze everything.

Plaque contains millions of bacteria. Bacteria are alive and as a result, they become hungry… probably more hungry than we are. What do they feed on? Good question. They feed on the sugars contained within the foods we consume. And when they feed, they produce acids that attack our enamel. This is what causes tooth decay to occur. After enough decay, we begin both seeing and feeling the results in the form of a dental cavity.

Plaque forms at the gum line. This is why dentists demonstrate brushing at the gum line, because you will be attacking the plaque if done properly. Plaque is constantly growing in your mouth as a result of consuming food – which is necessary for survival.

Consider it an on-going war. Just make sure you’re winning the battles!

OK… So What’s Tartar?

Here’s the deal. When you let plaque build up overtime it doesn’t just stay as plaque. That matter must go somewhere – unfortunately it will not just disappear. In comes tartar. Plaque that has been sitting along the gum line for so long will eventually mineralize, or harden, into tartar.

Here’s what you don’t want to hear: tartar cannot be removed through brushing and flossing. Brushing and flossing are techniques used to prevent tartar from occurring. But of course, even the world’s best “brusher” and “flosser” will not effectively remove all plaque.

So who can remove tartar? Easy – your dentist!

Dentists have special tools and techniques that will remove tartar from the mouth and essentially restart the process. If you see your dentist every 6 months then you’re doing your part to win the battles of the war. If you do not, then that tartar will eventually cause a host of problems. Decay is just the start.