Tartar 101: How to Prevent, Remove and Control Tartar Buildup

Tartar is one of those words we’ve been conditioned to know is bad news whenever we hear it in conjunction with our teeth. Of course, knowing that it’s a bad word when talking about our oral health and knowing exactly what it is are not even close to the same thing. Before you reach blindly for any product on the drugstore or grocery store shelf hoping to banish this particular difficulty from your days, it’s worth taking a moment to learn what tartar buildup really is, what risks it poses, and how to remove tartar buildup.

What is Tartar and What Does Tartar Buildup Look Like?

Tartar, also known as calculus, is a type of buildup on your teeth. When you eat and drink, you feed the bacteria that live in your mouth. They, in turn, produce a sticky, acidic substance called plaque. If you don’t remove plaque every day, it can harden and turn into hard, discolored film on your teeth called tartar.

How Does Tartar Buildup Develop?

Tartar between teeth is a direct consequence of not removing all the plaque from your teeth. If you have poor brushing and flossing skills, you are far more likely to develop tartar. If you avoid regular dental cleanings and checks, you miss the opportunity to keep tartar from forming and building up on your teeth. If you have a high bacterial load in your oral environment, you will build up plaque faster, which in turn puts you at a higher risk for developing tartar on the back of your teeth.

Why is Tartar Dangerous to Your Oral Health?

Tartar irritates your gums. It holds oral bacteria up against your gums. This can lead to inflammation and gum disease. The hard tartar also pushes the gums away from the tooth, making pockets that hold bacteria and irritants, worsening gum disease. Gum disease treatment with plaque buildup frequently requires a deep cleaning and takes a long time to heal. Advanced gum disease can also lead to tooth loss and, in extreme cases, bone loss in the jaw. Gum disease also is correlated with increased heart disease risk, so it’s not just your oral health that’s at stake. Your overall health is involved, too.

How Do You Get Rid of Tartar?

Unfortunately, there is no safe home method for tartar buildup removal. Once your plaque has hardened into tartar, you need an appointment with your dental care team to remove the calculus.

How Do You Avoid Tartar?

Avoiding rapid tartar buildup is the best possible choice. The way to keep tartar at bay is simple—brush twice a day every day, floss daily, and keep up your regular dental care visit schedule. You can also avoid oral conditions favorable to plaque overgrowth, like frequent eating and dry mouth.

What Products Prevent Tartar Buildup?

There is some evidence that specially formulated tartar control toothpaste can help slow tartar formation more than plain fluoride toothpaste. If your dentist has found that you have a bacterial imbalance, treating the bacterial overgrowth with oral care products specially formulated to provide antibiotic therapy can help you avoid tartar by treating the underlying condition that makes you more susceptible to plaque and, by extension, tartar. If you are a frequent eater, consider chewing xylitol gum after eating to reduce the damage done by constant pH changes. Xylitol gum can also help with dry mouth, as can sipping water throughout the day. Still, it’s worth remembering that no product is a substitute for regular dental care with a professional care team.

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