The Difference Between Plaque and Tartar | Whitehorse Dental

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WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PLAQUE AND TARTAR

A patient unsure of the difference between plaque and tartar.

One of our favourite questions is: what’s the difference between plaque and tartar? Lots of our patients ask us, and it’s a great question.

Essentially, plaque is soft and sticky bacteria that stick to our teeth. In our mouths, there are nooks and crannies that harder to reach and the plaque grows and stagnates there. Over time, this plaque that’s been missed during our day to day brushing becomes hard like a rock. We call this tartar.

Plaque and tartar buildup is a common dental problem and if left unchecked causes major teeth issues like gum infections and holes in your teeth and cavities. Luckily though, it’s easy to keep plaque and tartar under control with preventative dentistry. For this reason, it’s actually something we’re pretty passionate about.


Is prevention better than a cure? Read our article on Preventative Dentistry here.


Getting rid of plaque

Plaque is mostly white in colour making it hard to see. When your teeth has plaque on it, it feels furry to run your tongue over it.

Plaque is essentially billions of bacteria that form a sticky soft film over your teeth. This soft sticky layer of bacteria is very similar to the bathroom grime that builds up on the shower wall. This bacteria is the cause of ALL major teeth problems and needs to be removed to maintain a healthy mouth.

Plaque sticks strongly to teeth and needs to be physically brushed off. It’s important to know that plaque cannot be washed off with water, even with high-pressure water like a waterpik or airflosser.

If plaque doesn’t get brushed off in a timely manner, that soft sticky film gets hardened by the saliva in your mouth and becomes tartar. This is why we brush our teeth every day: we’re aiming to brush off the soft layer of bacteria before it hardens into tartar. By brushing it off well, plaque bacteria will never get the chance to cause any teeth problems and you’d get very happy, healthy teeth.

Unfortunately, plaque loves to grow in between the gaps of our teeth and near the gumline, right at the join between tooth and gum. That’s also why at Whitehorse Dental, we recommend brushing between teeth with interdental brushes too.


Hate flossing? We love using interdental brushes instead, read more on our blog.


How to remove tartar

Tartar is usually a little more visible and looks yellow to brown in colour. In particular, it’s common to see tartar behind our lower front teeth.

Tartar occurs when plaque hasn’t been removed and it becomes hardened on our teeth. It might surprise you how hard tartar is. Furthermore, tartar fixes strongly to our teeth like barnacles stuck to the bottom of a boat. This makes tartar impossible to remove with a toothbrush or by any other safe means at home. The toughness of tartar also means it’s best cleaned off professionally by a dentist every 6 months.

Regular professional cleans ensures that tartar doesn’t fester and cause worse problems like cavities and gum disease. We recommend a professional teeth clean every 6 months to stay on top of plaque and tartar.


Anxious about visiting the dentist? See how our Anthony Poate designed practice makes teeth cleans gentle and comfortable.


Remove plaque & tartar = no problems

This formula might seem too simple, but it’s true.

Daily brushing habits and regular cleans at the dentist are all it takes for healthy teeth. This is our Preventative Dentistry philosophy. We don’t simply clean teeth, we help people build healthy dental habits so you can actually see us less.

Book an appointment online with us today.

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