Dental Hygiene: Tartar/Calculus – APLUS Institute

What Actually is Tartar/Calculus?

Tartar

Tartar also known as calculus, and is plaque that has hardened on your teeth. Tartar is a mineral buildup caused by minerals from saliva and gingival crevicular fluid (GCF) present in plaque. It is very easy to see if tartar is above the gum line and the most common sign of tartar buildup is yellow or brown teeth. When tartar builds up at the gum line, it can aggravate the gum tissues. When tartar forms it gives plaque more surface area to grow on, and is a better surface for the plaque to adhere to. This can then lead to cavities and gum disease.

Plaque

Plaque is the sticky colourless film that forms on your teeth and is where bacteria lives. If not removed regularly by brushing and flossing, it hardens to create tartar. When tartar has formed it makes the teeth more difficult to clean properly. When this happens the plaque builds up more and the acids released by the bacteria in your mouth are likely to break down your tooth enamel and cause cavities. Good dental habits can prevent this happening, by brushing twice a day and using dental floss daily. These are the best ways to reduce plaque and tartar build up.

Scaling

However, once tartar has formed, it is too hard to be removed by a brush and can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist. The process for removing it is called scaling. During a scaling visit the dentist or hygienist will use special instruments to remove the tartar from the teeth, and above and below the gum line. During the scaling the dentist or Hygienist can tell if gingivitis is present by swollen or bright red gums, bleeding gums before or after cleaning, tender or painful gums to touch or bad breath. Gingivitis is a non-destructive periodontal disease that if treated can be reversible with good oral hygiene.

Periodontitis

If tartar is not removed and gingivitis is left untreated, it can develop into a more serious gum disease known as periodontitis. Periodontitis is where the gums become infected by bacteria beneath the gums. The body’s immune system will start to release chemicals to fight the bacteria, but the combined body’s chemicals and bacteria present, can damage the bone and other tissues that hold the teeth in place. When this happens pockets form between the gums and teeth. This can then lead to tooth loss and bone degradation.