We all know that we should rid our teeth of tartar and plaque using either conventional methods or home remedies, but exactly what roles do tartar and plaque play in our oral health?
For starters, let's define the two players. Plaque, which is by far the most villainous, is a soft, sticky, nearly invisible film of bacteria that accumulates on teeth and dental restorations (fillings, crowns, and dentures, for example) and on the gums and the tongue. Some of the bacteria in plaque cause tooth decay, and some are responsible for periodontal, or gum, disease. Plaque is always with us. A newborn baby's mouth is sterile, but only for the first ten hours or so of life.
Tartar is a calcified material that often contains bacterial debris and sometimes plaque. It's a white, chalky substance. Although tartar (also called calculus) can make it easier for plaque to stick around, the stuff is generally considered to be primarily a cosmetic problem.
Plaque is the culprit in cavities and gum disease. The longer plaque hangs around in your mouth, the more trouble it causes. As certain bacteria in plaque feed off fermentable carbohydrates (which include sugars, even those in fruit and milk, and starchy foods such as breads, pastas, and crackers), they produce an acid that eats away at tooth enamel, causing cavities.
Other bacteria infect the gums, producing the first symptoms of gum disease, such as redness, inflammation, and bleeding. If left untreated, gum disease may progress to the point that the infection literally destroys the bone that holds the teeth roots in place. That's why gum disease is the major cause of tooth loss among adults over age 35.
Both plaque and tartar can form above and below the gum line. It takes a dentist or dental hygienist to remove tartar from anywhere in the mouth and to remove plaque from below the gum line. And regular, professional cleanings -- as often as your dentist recommends -- will help make your dental care at home more effective.
It's also important to have the condition of your gums checked through a periodontal probing during your checkups. Make dental checkups and cleanings part of your annual health-care routine, along with blood-pressure readings and cancer screenings.
On average, 65 percent of all Americans visit their dentist regularly. So what's the deal? Why the toothache? It could be a result of:
- Poor food choices
- Bad brushing technique
- Not enough flossing
- Lack of professional care
Take your pick; the list is long. But you can keep plaque under control and prevent it from destroying your smile, but it takes a little time and effort. Since the alternative is painful gum disease and tooth loss, it's worth it. See the next section to find out what you can do.
For more information on tartar and plaque and how to combat them, try the following links:
- Visit our Home Remedies page to learn about all of our home rememdies and the conditions they treat.
- If you are suffering from painful or even bleeding gums, there are some herbs that may be in your garden right now that can alleviate or eliminate these problems. Learn how in Herbal Remedies for Dental Problems.
- For an in-depth explanation of dental disease, go to our How Dental Disease Works page.
- Find out how regular cleaning prevents problems by understanding how oral hygiene works.
- Learn effective home remedies that help you cope with tooth pain naturally.