What is tartar?
No matter what we eat, some food particles always get stuck in our teeth. These particles can get caught in the crevices of teeth, and lead to the growth of bacteria. The bacteria forms a thin film on teeth, which is known as plaque. When plaque is left unchecked, it continues to grow and harden; and when plaque hardens, it is called tartar or calculus.
Tartar gives plaque more room to grow, and forms a surface on which plaque can stick. This can happen on teeth, between the crevices, near the gums, and in the back of the mouth where it is difficult for your brush to reach.
Unlike plaque, tartar is easy to see, as it is a mineral build-up; it often turns darker, to shades of yellow and brown, as it hardens. Given its porous nature, tartar also absorbs stains caused by acidic and tannic food and drink. So, if you are a regular tea or coffee drinker, and you have tartar build-up, your teeth are likely to discolor easily.
The growth of tartar can lead to other, more serious, dental issues. Tartar build-up also makes it harder for you to brush and floss your teeth, which in turn, can cause cavities and tooth decay.
What causes tartar on teeth?
Residual food and drink remain in our mouth long after we have eaten, and feed the germs in the mouth; they thrive on sugar and starch, and extract what they need from the food we eat. These germs break down the teeth and harm the gums.
Once tartar forms on the teeth, it becomes a vicious circle of bacterial growth, as tartar gives plaque a better platform to flourish, and plaque grows when it comes into contact with saliva. If not removed through daily brushing and flossing, plaque infects the gums and teeth, and the gum tissue that supports the bone. Once plaque turns into tartar, it has to be removed by a dental professional.
4 Ways to Prevent Tartar
Once tartar develops on your teeth, the only way to remove it is with professional treatment. You will need to visit the dentist, who will use special instruments to scrape tartar from all areas of your mouth; this is called scaling.
But tartar is much easier to prevent than treat. Follow these tips to avoid tartar build-up:
- Brush and floss - Make sure you brush twice a day, for about 2 minutes each time. And brush even in the hard-to-reach places, as these are a breeding ground for germs. Flossing helps remove any food particles stuck between the teeth, so this is an important step in your dental care routine.
- Choose tartar-control and fluoride toothpaste - Fluoride helps repair enamel damage, and some toothpaste has ingredients that fight bacteria, so choose wisely
- Rinse daily with a Mouthwash - Use an antiseptic mouthwash daily. Swishing for 30 seconds with the right mouthwash can do wonders in keeping your mouth clean and helping to fight bacteria that cause plaque. Mouthwash reaches places in your mouth that your brush cannot, effectively fighting germs all over your mouth.
- Eat and clean – Sugary and starchy foods help germs thrive, so make sure you clean your teeth immediately after eating, to ensure no bits are left behind for bacteria to feed on.