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Take a moment to run your tongue along the bottom of your teeth. Can you feel a sticky film coating your pearly whites? This film hardens into tartar if it is left to build on your teeth, and becomes crusty once it hardens. Unlike plaque, which is colorless, tartar is not. Once it hardens into tartar, it becomes a crusty deposit which traps stains on your teeth. Calcium and phosphate bind together to form crystals on your teeth, and forms above your gum line, irritating gum tissue. Eventually this can lead to gum disease.

How does tartar happen? We all have bacteria in our mouths, and this bacteria reacts with sugar and starches from eating and drinking, producing acids that erode tooth enamel. If we don’t clean this film off, it hardens fairly quickly into tartar. Plaque starts forming four to twelve hours after brushing the teeth. After tartar bonds to teeth it takes a dental professional using special (scaling) instruments to remove.

Controlling Tartar

–Twice a day, brush your teeth for at least two minutes. You can’t effectively remove plaque in less time than that. Remember to clean the back molars as they get most of the chewing action trapping food particles. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush to gently scrub near the gums and gum line.

–If you are not getting your teeth clean using a manual toothbrush, consider investing in a powered toothbrush. Studies show they are more effective at removing plaque than manual toothbrushes. Not only do they reach the back areas, they are easy to use for those who have limited manual dexterity, such as children and older people with arthritis.

–An ADA (American Dental Association) approved tartar-control toothpaste help keep plaque from developing into tartar. If you choose a fluoride toothpaste it can also help repair damaged tooth enamel.

–After brushing, take time to floss. A toothbrush cannot reach the spaces between teeth and near the gum line, but a flosser can. Floss thoroughly at least once a day, every day. It doesn’t matter if you use a flossing string or floss pick.

–An ADA approved antiseptic mouthwash can also help remove bacteria that might turn into plaque. ADA approved products have been tested and proven to be safe and effective for you.

–Diet can definitely affect tartar development. Sugary or starchy foods encourage plaque buildup from harmful acids, so limit those, especially if snacking. Eating a healthy diet will also help, as well as avoiding dry mouth, because saliva helps neutralize bacterial acids. Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

–While your daily efforts keep your teeth and gums healthy, you can’t remove tartar build up on your own. Make sure to see your dentist twice a year, once a year minimum. This will not only protect your teeth but help you prevent gum disease.

Our team at Olympia Dental Group is happy to help you in your quest for oral health! Please call us with any questions you may have, or to schedule your next cleaning. You can reach us at 360-943-4777.