You’ve probably heard of the words ‘plaque’ and ‘tartar’ when you’ve come in to see us (we hope anyway!) and you might know that neither are particularly desirable, but what exactly are they? Arming yourself with the facts can help you care for your teeth.

What is plaque?

Plaque is a clear, sticky film containing bacteria that builds up naturally on tooth surfaces. It builds especially along the gum line within four to twelve hours after brushing. Plaque itself isn’t actually a big problem, however it all changes when you introduce sugars in food and drink. Bacteria in the plaque feed off the sugars and create harmful acids, which overtime can erode the enamel on your teeth, resulting in tooth decay and cavities. Plaque can also irritate your gums and contribute to gum disease, like gingivitis.

This might sound nasty and unpleasant but worry not, it’s completely normal and can be easily removed with brushing twice a day and flossing.

Brushing plaque away – every day

As plaque usually starts forming along the gumline, make sure to pay extra attention to this area when brushing your teeth. Flossing will also help get rid of the plaque build-up in between the teeth.

Cutting back on sugary food and drink will also help prevent tooth decay or simply eating these treats at meal-times only, so you’re not continually feeding the bacteria on your teeth. Drinking a glass of water and chewing sugar-free gum can give you an extra boost, as it helps to wash away food and bacteria.

The hard truth about tartar

When plaque isn’t removed thoroughly, it can harden and turn into tartar. This can happen as quickly as 48 hours after not brushing, which is why it is super important to never skip brushing and flossing your teeth, no matter how late you get home after a night out!

Tartar, unlike plaque, is not colourless, but an undesirable shade of yellow or brown and can’t be brushed away. Tartar usually forms around the gumline and not only does it cause tooth decay and gum disease but as it’s porous, it stains easily, leaving your teeth looking quite unpleasant. If left untreated, tartar will continue to build up – so it’s important to act sooner rather than later.

Tackling tartar

Tartar can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist, so make sure to have regular cleans with our hygienists, Jo & Ellie, to avoid tartar build-up.

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