What is Plaque vs Tartar?


Patients are often curious regarding the difference between plaque and tartar. Below is a summary of key differences between the two substances.



Dental plaque is a sticky film which accumulates on the teeth and can collect under the gumline. It contains millions of bacteria. Carbohydrates and sugars found within our food feed bacteria on the teeth and acids are produced. Over time, these acids can cause damage to the tooth’s enamel and result in cavities or other issues.


Patients must practice good oral hygiene to prevent tooth decay and help protect the teeth from damaging plaque. Brushing the teeth at least twice each day and daily flossing aids in preventing the buildup of plaque. It is also helpful to ensure you drink plenty of water.


Brushing and flossing aid in removing plaque from the teeth, however patients must be extremely diligent. Plaque has a tendency to accumulate in areas which are difficult to clean. Patients should also make routine visits to the dentist to ensure that plaque is completely removed. A professional cleaning helps remove plaque located between the teeth and in hard to reach areas. Dental scaling is often used to eliminate plaque below the gums which can cause inflammation or harden into tartar.


Common signs of plaque include bad breath, teeth which feel slimy or fuzzy, yellow debris when flossing, and painful, bleeding gums.



Tartar develops when plaque has accumulated and is not properly removed. Plaque which remains on the teeth for extended periods will eventually harden and turn into tartar. Tartar cannot be removed at home and must be removed by a dental professional. One of the reasons it is so important to make regular visits to the dentist is to ensure that tartar is properly removed.


The buildup of plaque which hardens into tartar can result in cavities and other serious issues. Tartar can cause tooth discoloration, sensitivity, receding gums, and gum disease.


Because tartar is so hard, it is impossible for patients to effectively remove at home. Patients who attempt to remove tartar on their own often damage the teeth and gums. A professional cleaning typically removes tartar, however, scaling and root planing may be required in more severe cases. Scaling and root planing removes plaque and tartar below the gums, and helps prevent additional buildup.


When patients begin noticing calculus build-up, it is important to continue brushing and flossing at home. Tartar makes it more challenging to remove plaque. Patients should ensure they are flossing every day and focus on gently brushing at the gumline.


Common signs of tartar accumulation include tooth discoloration, especially near the gums, rough patches on the teeth, and swollen, painful, or bleeding gums.


It is important to ensure plaque and tartar is removed from the teeth in order to prevent serious dental issues. Patients should ensure they consistently practice good oral hygiene with brushing and flossing. In order to remove tartar from the teeth, a visit to the dentist is needed.


Plaque and tartar will inevitably form on the teeth over time. In order to maintain healthy teeth and gums, practice good oral hygiene and ensure you make regular visits to the dentist. Patients with any oral health concerns should follow up with their dentist as soon as possible.

Will Hardened Plaque Go Away