Attending to the state of your dental health is of the utmost importance. Not only does your dental health influence the state of your self-esteem and emotional health, but it can also directly affect the state of your physical health as well. Poor dental health can lead to the loss of teeth, the development of cavities and the eventual presence of a variety of other dental issues. One of the most common dental issues that we’re supposed to fight to prevent is the buildup of dental tartar.
What Is Dental Tartar?
Dental tartar, also known as calculus, is the hard, yellow film that forms above and below the gum line of the tooth. Although the terms “dental tartar” and “dental plaque” are sometimes used interchangeably, they are, in fact, two very different dental conditions. Dental plaque is the precursor to dental tartar, and it is much easier to remove from the surface of the tooth than is dental tartar. Unlike dental tartar, dental plaque isn’t hard, and it doesn’t have a color. Instead, it is a clear, filmy presence that rests upon the surface of the tooth. Only when it’s allowed to sit upon the teeth does it eventually begin to covert and turn into what then becomes known as dental tartar. Not only does dental tartar usually manifest itself in the appearance of yellowish or brownish stains upon the surface of the tooth, but it also has a rough texture if you pass the tip of you tongue or finger over it.
Causes of Dental Tartar
The mouth naturally has a certain amount of bacteria in it. However, when you eat and food particles are left in your mouth, then that ever present bacteria now has a source of food upon which to feed. As the bacteria feeds, it begins to convert into acids that can eat away at the enamel on the surface of the tooth. It begins to become the sticky and filmy substance known as plaque. Although plaque by itself carries bacteria that can lead to dental cavities and other tooth damage, if caught early enough on, it can easily be removed to prevent any damage from occurring. Only when you fail to properly remove dental plaque through the diligent brushing, flossing and mouth rinsing of the teeth does the plaque begin to harden, calcify and morph into the porous substance that is dental tartar.
Effects of Dental Tartar on the Teeth and Gums
Once dental plaque has turned into dental tartar, then serious negative dental effects are set into motion. Dental tartar begins to eat away at the surface of the tooth. Cavities can develop. Even more serious, gingivitis begins to take way. The hardened dental tartar on the teeth makes properly brushing and flossing the teeth more difficult since toothbrushes and flossing appliances aren’t sufficient enough to remove the hardened surface of dental tartar. As a result, infection can quickly begin to set in around the gum line because the bacteria there will begin to irritate them. As the bacteria irritates the gums, they will likely become inflamed, which can make them more susceptible to breaking open and bleeding when you attempt to brush your teeth and your toothbrush passes over them.
While developing gingivitis is bad enough, it is only the mildest form of gum disease. The worsened form of gum disease is known as periodontitis or periodontal disease. In this progressed stage of gum disease, pockets begin to develop in the gums, and harmful bacteria nestles inside those pockets and infects them and the surrounding teeth from the inside out. What’s worse is that in response to the infection, your body’s immune system sends out chemicals that are specifically manufactured to fight that infection. When those innate chemicals mix with the bacteria, they create a mixture that damages the bone structure that anchors your teeth within your mouth. Therefore, as you can ascertain, the damaging effects of allowing dental tartar to develop and buildup on your teeth are great and should be avoided at all costs.
Dental Tartar Removal
Once dental plaque has turned to dental tartar, then you will no longer be able to remove it from your teeth on your own. In its hardened state, dental tartar must be removed by a dental professional who has the appropriate tools and resources with which to remove the calcified substance. Dentists might employ a variety of dental instruments to remove dental tartar from the surface of the tooth, some of which include manual hand scaling instruments and others of which include automated ones.
The primary professional treatment method used to remove dental tartar from the teeth is known as a dental scaling procedure. It is a non-surgical procedure that consists of the dentist using the aforementioned tools to essentially scrape the hardened tartar from the surface of the tooth. Most dentists nowadays employ some usage of both manual and automated scalers, especially if the dental tartar has been allowed to progress very much. Power scalers are mechanical dental instruments that emit a series of powerful vibrations and rotations that effectively chip away the dental tartar on the surface of the tooth when it’s placed upon and guided across it. Hand-held dental scalers, on the other hand, are usually used to touch up any areas that the dentist couldn’t efficiently get to with the power scaler. However, in addition to using scalers, dentists also employ the use of machinery that creates shockwaves that are supposed to loosen and disrupt bacterial cells to make it easier to remove them. They also sometimes use irrigation techniques to flush out any pockets in the gum and the surface of the roots with cool water. This helps remove the bacteria found deep within the gums and roots.
Preventing Dental Tartar Buildup
While dental scaling techniques have been developed to help you rid your teeth of dental tartar, it is best if you prevent dental tartar from building up in the first place. Then, you can avoid the hassle of having to get the tartar removed as well as any damaging effects that the tartar can have on your teeth the longer it’s allowed to sit upon them. Fortunately, there are plenty of dental tartar prevention techniques that you can employ to help prevent the buildup of dental plaque and later dental tartar on your teeth. 1. Practice good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth at least twice a day. It’s preferable to brush them after every meal, but if you can’t always manage to do that, at least make sure that you brush them every morning and every night. Proper brushing consists of at least two minutes of scrubbing during each session. Also, make sure that you use a soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid damaging the surface of your tooth with harder bristles, and make sure that you pay attention to those hard-to-reach areas since they are where dental tartar is most likely to begin and then spread. Employ good brushing technique as well by brushing up and down upon the surface of the tooth rather than side to side. 2. Use the right toothpaste. Contrary to popular belief, all toothpastes are not created equally. While some contain fluoride, others don’t, and for the sake of combating dental tartar, you need to make sure that you’re using one that does contain fluoride. Not only does fluoride help kill bacteria in the mouth, but it can also help repair tooth enamel and protect it from further damage. Also look for toothpastes that contain triclosan, which is a chemical that helps combat the harmful bacteria found in dental plaque. 3. Adhere to a dental-friendly diet. Not only is managing what you eat important to maintaining a healthy body weight, but it also greatly affects your dental health. Since all the food that goes into your body must pass through your mouth first, then it makes sense to conclude that everything you ingest will affect your teeth. Try to limit your intake of sugary and acidic foods as well as those that are high in carbohydrates since these foods release more harmful bacteria and acids than other, more wholesome foods. It’s best to eat more vegetables, fruits and proteins and to make sure that you drink plenty of water to keep your body as well as your mouth hydrated.
Colgate. “What is tartar?” Retrieved on February 14, 2017, from http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/conditions/plaque-and-tartar/article/what-is-tartar.
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American Academy of Periodontology. “What is the difference between plaque and calculus?” Retrieved on February 14, 2017, from https://www.perio.org/node/261.
American Academy of Periodontology
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