Having good oral hygiene is important for numerous reasons. Not only does keeping teeth clean lend to a whiter and brighter smile that is more aesthetically-pleasing than a more yellowed one, but oral hygiene can have significant effects on an individual’s overall health as well. One of the main types of dental buildup that toothpaste and other oral hygiene products help fight in addition to cavities in tartar, also known as dental plaque. If tartar is regularly cleaned from the teeth and kept under control, then even more serious types of dental conditions can occur.
What Is Dental Calculus?
Dental calculus is basically tartar that has been allowed to sit on the surface of the tooth so long that it has hardened into an even more serious type of plaque. Dental calculus is not only found on the teeth, but underneath the gums as well. Not only does dental calculus have an unappealing appearance, but it also poses serious health risks to the gums. If left untreated, it can lead to gum disease and other infections as well to both the teeth and gums. There are two primary types of dental calculus. The type that forms along the gum line is referred to as supragingival dental calculus, and the type that forms beneath the teeth and gum is known as subgingival dental calculus.
Causes of Dental Calculus
Dental calculus is commonly associated with dental conditions like bad bread, receding gums and chronically inflamed gums. Oftentimes, it is formed by a buildup of dental plaque that is left on the teeth and gums after eating. This is because the sugars and carbohydrates found in food cause the mouth to produce an acid that ends up attaching the teeth. The way that this process works is when the minerals in the saliva and the fluid found in plaque on the teeth precipitates. Although this process kills the bacteria on the teeth, it leaves a roughened surface on the teeth that serves as an ideal location for further plaque buildup to occur, which leads to dental calculus formation over time. As the mineral salts are deposited onto the teeth, they begin to form a sticky surface that ends up allowing even more plaque to adhere to the surface of the tooth. Progressed cases of dental calculus are usually very visible, but even individuals who can’t visibly see dental calculus can usually feel it in the form of a pasty film that leaves a bad taste in their mouths.
Treatment for Dental Calculus
Although brushing and flossing teeth can help remove plaque, once dental calculus has formed, it cannot be removed with professional help. This is because dental calculus is much too hard, sticky and firmly attached to the tooth to be able to be removed with just a toothbrush. Some of the methods that dentists use to remove calcified tartar on the teeth include using an ultrasonic machine and using a periodontal scaler to manually scrape the calculus from the surface of the tooth around the gum lines. An ultrasonic dental machine is most often used when the dental calculus buildup is so severe that handheld scrapers are insufficient to remove the buildup. These machines blast away the large deposits of calculus, and then the remaining smaller pieces can be scraped away with a periodontal scaler.
Preventing Dental Calculus Formation
Fortunately, there are plenty of measures individuals can take to help lessen the likelihood that they’ll develop dental calculus. Of course, the most basic preventative measures include brushing the teeth at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day. Brushing after each meal can also significantly help combat tartar buildup. Visiting the dentist at least once or twice a year for regular professional cleaning and exams can also assist in the prevention of dental calculus formation. Other measures that individuals can take is to avoid sugary snacks that can help minimize the production of plaque and to avoid other foods that are high in carbohydrates and other minerals that assist in the formation and buildup of more tartar.
Dentistry IQ. “Fact sheet: Dental Calculus.” Retrieved on February 23, 2016, from http://www.dentistryiq.com/articles/2013/02/fact-sheet-dental-calculus.html.
American Academy of Periodontology. “What is the difference between plaque and calculus?” Retrieved on February 23, 2016, from https://www.perio.org/node/261.
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