Do your teeth look and feel icky and crusty? Is yellow or brown buildup making you self-conscious when you smile? You’re probably dealing with tartar, and your family dentist can help. Only your dentist can remove tartar once it’s there, but we can also give you strategies for preventing it in the future.
What Is Tartar?
Tartar is a mineral buildup that forms when dental plaque hardens on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky film made up of bacteria, food particles, and saliva that forms on your teeth when you eat. When plaque remains on your teeth, it hardens into tartar, also called dental calculus. Tartar is composed of dead bacteria mixed with proteins from your saliva to create minerals, including calcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, and magnesium phosphate. It forms at the gum line and also above and below the gums.
Can I Remove Tartar By Brushing My Teeth?
Once tartar forms, you can’t remove it by brushing. Your dentist must remove it with a deep cleaning procedure called scaling. Your dentist uses a manual or electronic scaling tool to remove tartar above and below the gum line. If you have extensive tartar buildup, you may need a full mouth debridement. In this case, your dentist uses an ultrasonic tool to remove hardened tartar, followed by a scaling treatment.
What Happens If I Leave Tartar Untreated?
Untreated tartar causes pockets to form between your tooth and gum. If you don’t remove it, tartar can cause gum disease and receding gums. Tartar also contributes to cavities, tooth decay, and bad breath. Finally, tartar buildup is a cosmetic issue for many patients. It causes teeth to appear yellow and stained, affecting your smile and self-confidence.
Why Do I Have So Much Tartar On My Teeth?
Several factors contribute to tartar buildup. They include:
- Neglecting oral hygiene, including daily brushing and flossing.
- Eating and drinking sugary or starchy food and drinks.
- Smoking or using tobacco products is linked to increased tartar buildup. Nicotine reduces saliva production, causing plaque and tartar buildup.
- The condition known as dry mouth prevents saliva from washing away food particles and reducing bacteria on your teeth. It can make you more susceptible to tartar buildup.
- People with braces may also experience tartar buildup since brackets create spaces that are hard to reach with brushing and flossing.
How Can I Prevent Tartar Buildup?
Removing plaque regularly is the best way to prevent tartar from forming. Practicing excellent oral hygiene and seeing your dentist regularly for preventive care keeps plaque at bay. Tips for preventing tartar buildup include:
- Diligent brushing twice daily with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. Ask your dentist about formulas specially designed to fight tartar.
- Tartar-control toothpaste uses sodium pyrophosphate to prevent minerals from accumulating on the teeth. But remember, once tartar builds up, even a specialized toothpaste won’t remove it– you’ll need to get a professional cleaning.
- Talk with your dentist about an electronic toothbrush. Research shows they may be more effective at removing plaque and preventing tartar buildup than a traditional toothbrush.
- Flossing removes food particles you can’t reach with brushing alone and prevents plaque between your teeth.
- We often recommend a water flosser, especially if you have braces. Waterpiks and similar devices don’t remove tartar, but they can help remove plaque, especially in hard-to-reach areas.
- Talk with your dentist about an antiseptic/tartar control mouth rinse.
Limit sugary and starchy foods and avoid sodas and other sweetened beverages.
- Avoid smoking and tobacco products to keep your saliva levels healthy and wash away plaque and food particles.
- Schedule regular cleanings with your family dentist.
At Greenhill Family Dentistry, we want our patients to have healthy, confident smiles. We focus on preventing tartar buildup with regular checkups and excellent oral hygiene. However, if you have tartar buildup, don’t be alarmed or embarrassed. As always, our office is a judgment-free zone, and our team is ready to help with professional treatment. Professional deep cleaning is the perfect way to give your teeth a fresh start. Then, we’ll help you keep tartar away with strategies and tools for a clean and healthy smile.