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Plaque, Calculus and Tartar: The Same Thing?

Posted on 4/15/2016 by Leslie Davis
A man happy and flossing his teeth to remove plaque buildup.I am sure you have heard each one at least once: plaque, calculus and tartar.

Usually mentioned on your box of toothpaste or on the silly television commercial with the green gingivitis villain, but what do they all mean?

Are they all the same thing? Or are they even related at all? I am sure that you have heard at some point, probably in your early years the mention that plaque and tartar are not things that you want on your teeth and if you are older, you may have heard the term calculus thrown around a time or two in the dentist's office.

Calculus, tartar and plaque are all created by the same bacteria from the mouth- the difference lying in the amount of accumulation that has occurred and overall what stage the accumulation is considered to be at.

What is Plaque?

Plaque is the clear, sticky substance that develops on our teeth throughout the course of everyday. When we practice healthy oral hygiene, plaque is generally not a problem as brushing and flossing will sufficiently remove the plaque itself.

It is when proper oral hygiene is not practiced that plaque becomes a threat to the oral health of a patient, as plaque that is left to harden is referred to as calculus and tartar. Plaque left on the tooth will eventually make its way down beneath the gum line causing inflammation and potential infection.

Calculus and Tartar

Calculus and tartar refers to the same substance that is a result of the second stage of plaque accumulation where it is left to harden.

Hardened tartar or calculus poses a dangerous threat to the oral health of the patient as tartar leads to rapid tooth decay and will in every case need to be removed through special procedures performed by a periodontist.

Please contact us if you have any questions about plaque and tartar control.

Dr. Leslie Davis
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