Tartar, also known as dental calculus, is a hard mineral buildup that forms on teeth and can cause a range of oral health issues, such as bone loss, tooth mobility, and the loss of teeth. Dr. Huynh at Eastport Dental in Mesa, AZ, understands the importance of maintaining healthy teeth and gums and preventing tartar buildup. In this blog, we’ll discuss what causes tartar on teeth and how to prevent it.
What is Tartar?
Tartar is a mineral buildup that forms on teeth when plaque, a sticky film made up of various oral bacteria, is not thoroughly removed through proper oral hygiene practices. It is essentially calcified dental plaque. Fortunately, plaque is soft and easy to clean off. On the other hand, tartar is not. Tartar buildup isn’t always visible on your teeth, but when it is, it can take on a yellow, brown, black, or even green appearance. Once tartar forms, it can only be removed by a dental professional during a dental cleaning.
Where is Tartar Heaviest in My Mouth?
Tartar buildup can occur in various parts of the mouth, but it is most commonly found between teeth, just below the gum line, and next to saliva glands, such as behind the lower front teeth or on the cheek side of your upper back teeth. These areas are particularly prone to tartar buildup because they are harder to reach and clean thoroughly with regular brushing and flossing. If you have heavy tartar accumulation, it will likely be visible on your dental X-rays; most of these areas look like small spurs coming off the sides of your tooth roots due to the calcifications in those spaces.
Preventing Tartar Buildup by Removing Soft Plaque
Preventing tartar buildup starts with removing soft plaque from the teeth every day through proper oral hygiene practices. Soft plaque can easily be removed through effective toothbrushing and flossing. It’s important to brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and floss daily to remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line. As long as you disrupt the plaque regularly, it doesn’t have a chance to calcify onto the surface of your tooth hence why you need to floss each day!
How Long Does Plaque Take to Calcify Into Tartar?
Plaque can calcify into tartar within 24 to 72 hours if it is not removed through proper oral hygiene practices. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to assume tartar builds up within about one day.
Tartar buildup continues to accumulate over time, creating larger areas of deposits under your gums or throughout your mouth. When that happens, it causes your gum tissues to become diseased, pull away from the teeth, and destroy the supporting bone in those spaces.
Proper Flossing Methods
Flossing is an essential part of preventing tartar buildup and maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Here are some proper flossing methods to follow:
Use enough floss: Use about 18 inches of floss to ensure you have enough to clean between all of your teeth.
Wrap the floss around your fingers: Wrap the floss around your index fingers, leaving about two inches of floss in the middle. You’ll wrap the floss on one hand as it gets contaminated, unwrapping on the other to refresh the piece you’re cleaning your teeth with.
Gently slide the floss between teeth: Gently slip the floss between your teeth using a back-and-forth motion if the space is tight.
Curve the floss: Wrap the floss around the base of each tooth in a C-shape and slide it under the gum line. Move the floss up and down several times, then lift it up and over to move to the next tooth.
Repeat this process on each tooth, making sure to clean all surfaces including behind the very back teeth.
How to Brush More Effectively
Brushing is another essential part of preventing tartar buildup and maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Here are some tips to brush more effectively:
Use the right toothbrush: Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and replace it every three to four months or sooner if the bristles become frayed. Better yet, invest in an electric one!
Brush for two minutes: Clean your teeth for at least two minutes twice a day.
Use the proper technique: Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums and use gentle, short brushing motions to clean the front, back, and top of each tooth.
Schedule a Dental Cleaning Today
Regular dental cleanings are essential for preventing tartar buildup and maintaining healthy teeth and gums. But if you do have heavy tartar, Eastport Dental can help get you back to a fresh, clean slate. Call us today to schedule your next appointment.