By Last Updated: August 23, 2022

Did you know that the mouth naturally has bacteria? In good oral conditions, bacteria help maintain an excellent environment in the mouth. They protect the teeth and gums and promote the proper digestion of the food you eat.

However, these good bacteria will become harmful if oral health is not adequately maintained. When left on the tooth surface, they will cause plaque accumulation which will eventually calcify into tartar or calculus. Read along to know more about tartar build-up, how it happens, and how to treat and prevent it. 

What is tartar?

When you eat your favourite food, starch and sugar naturally attach to the tooth surfaces. And if you fail to practice good oral hygiene, this remains on the tooth surfaces. Over time, it will attract bacteria and will accumulate on the teeth. This becomes a problem if it is not immediately removed due to the formation of plaque.

Plaque build-up starts along the gumline. This is a sticky, almost crumbly film that is white to yellow in colour. And when plaque and bacteria continue to thrive in your mouth, it will harden or calcify and turn into tartar or dental calculus. This severe form of plaque can cause dental decay, gum and periodontal disease, and bad breath.

How do I know if I have tartar build-up?

Most patients see tartar build-up along their gumline or the area where plaque had previously collected. Some patients can immediately see this in the mirror, but some may find it hard to do so, especially if their tartar has accumulated behind the front teeth or in their back teeth.

The characteristics of tartar include:

  • White, yellow, or brown build-up along the gums or in between the teeth
  • Swelling of the gums where the build-up is
  • Bad smelling

How does tartar affect the teeth and the gums?

Tartar or dental calculus is expected to cause poor oral health. Because tartar is full of harmful bacteria, it can affect the teeth and the gums in many ways. Here are some of the dental diseases one may experience with tartar build-up:

  • Decay or cavities – bacteria from plaque and tartar build-up may cause enamel demineralization. They will eat away the mineral content of the tooth to wear off the tooth surface. If left to thrive, this will form a black or brown spot or a hole in your tooth called tooth decay or cavity.
  • Gingivitis – as tartar accumulates along the gum line, the bacteria will cause infection of the gums, also known as gingivitis. Common signs and symptoms include gums that easily bleed, are tender to the touch, inflamed, and very red.
  • Periodontal disease – this is the severe, irreversible form of gum disease.  If tartar build-up is not removed, the gums and bone will pull away from the tooth. This makes the smile look unappealing and will also cause loosening of the tooth from the socket. Once the irritants are removed, the gums and bones will not grow back. In this case, surgical cosmetic surgery may be recommended to revitalize the smile.
  • Tooth loss – and if the periodontal disease continues to progress and further damage the bone, the tooth will no longer have support to hold its place. No treatment will suffice to preserve your tooth at this stage, so your dentist may recommend a tooth extraction.

In severe cases, these dental concerns will eventually cause systemic infection.

If I have tartar, what can I do?

Now that you know tartar can affect your oral and overall health in many ways, it must be removed immediately. However, regular toothbrushing and flossing will no longer work because they are already hard and calcified.

To effectively remove tartar, a visit to your dentist for professional teeth cleaning is required.

At Sierra Dental, our dentists and hygienists do thorough teeth cleaning using specialized instruments such as a high-frequency ultrasonic scaler, sharp curettes, and polisher to scrape away tartar, plaque, stains, and other irritants on the tooth surface. The result is a whole mouth clean for a healthier and happier smile.

Tips to Prevent Tartar

The best way to prevent tartar build-up is to maintain good oral hygiene through preventive dentistry techniques. Additionally, a balanced and nutritional diet can also help. Some tips to avoid tartar and its consequences are:

Brush regularly

Brushing the teeth removes plaque, so progression to the more aggressive dental tartar will not happen. For brushing, a soft-bristled toothbrush is recommended to gently scrape away the dirt on the teeth. Using fluoride-rich or anti-plaque toothpaste when toothbrushing also helps prevent plaque and tartar build-up.

Floss properly

Flossing removes trapped food debris between teeth that cannot be removed simply with a toothbrush. Use the C-method when flossing to thoroughly clean underneath the gums and prevent bacteria growth which can lead to tartar.

Rinse with an anti-plaque mouthwash

Incorporating a plaque-targeted mouthwash into your at-home oral health routine also helps minimize your risk for tartar. This keeps bacteria-causing plaque and tartar at bay to ensure the overall health and wellness of your smile.

Check your diet – limit sugar and starch

Sugar and starch can easily stick to the tooth surface and cause plaque and tartar when they are not removed. While proper oral hygiene care can help remove them, limiting your intake can readily help prevent tartar buildup.

Do not smoke

Several studies show that smoking increases your risk of developing tartar and gum disease. This is due to reduced salivary flow, which reduces your teeth’s self-cleansing ability and makes it easier for bacteria to stick on tooth surfaces. This supports the build-up of tartar and other dental issues. By avoiding smoking, you also avoid the heavy health consequences that come with it.

Consider sealants

Certain areas of the tooth are more prone to the build-up of bacteria-causing plaque and tartar. This includes the deep grooves on the biting surfaces of your teeth. Our dentists at Sierra Dental recommend getting dental sealants which are preventive fillings applied on tooth surfaces of the back teeth to ultimately prevent plaque and tartar.

Schedule a dental visit every six months

At Sierra Dental in Calgary, Alberta, our dentists and hygienists recommend you visit us every six months for a comprehensive dental check-up and professional teeth cleaning. With our help, we can remove and prevent tartar to achieve and maintain excellent oral health.

Looking for a Calgary dentist?

Sierra Dental prides itself on comprehensive dental solutions for your entire family. This includes general, cosmetic, and restorative treatments to create a healthy and more confident smile. Whether you need treatments for your tartar build-up or more extensive procedures such as full mouth restoration, we are here to help you.

Call us today at 403 – 297 – 9600 to learn more about our services.