Understanding Dental Plaque and Tartar Buildup

What is plaque and tartar? Plaque is the simple term used to describe the complex biofilm made up of bacteria in the human mouth. It is the sticky substance that clings to the inner surfaces of the mouth, the teeth, and the gums. The human mouth is home to colonies of bacteria, some harmless, some helpful, and some problematic. When bacteria in the mouth join together, they start acting more like a single unit made up of many cells than a set of individual units. This is called a biofilm, which allows bacteria to survive removal efforts better than bacteria not in a biofilm.

Plaque that is allowed to grow unchecked and/or are made up of mostly unhealthy bacteria lead to increased cavity formation. Further, when dental plaque is allowed to overgrow, it develops calcium structures and becomes tartar. Tartar, unlike plaque, requires a dental cleaning to remove.

What Causes Tartar and Plaque on Teeth

  • Not brushing and flossing
  • Eating between meal times
  • Frequent meals
  • Having a harmful bacteria overgrowth

How to Remove Tartar and Plaque

  • Not letting it overgrow in the first place with regular, good oral care habits
  • Regular dental cleanings
  • Tartar control toothpaste meant to prevent tartar formation (only a dental cleaning can remove tartar once is hardens to the tooth surface)

Common Questions About Plaque:

Does everyone have plaque?

Yes. It occurs in all mouths and is a natural result of the bacteria that live in and on all human beings. Not all plaque, however, is a sign of disease, and not all plaque is healthy. The bacteria involved and how well its growth is controlled help determine healthy from unhealthy dental plaque.

Is tartar the same as plaque?

Tartar is plaque that has been allowed to overgrow and calcify. The calcium structure makes plaque removal extremely difficult, which increases the risk that the teeth underneath the tartar will develop disease. That’s why plaque and tartar removal methods are different.

How can I prevent plaque from forming?

Brush your teeth at least twice a day, every day with a soft bristle toothbrush. Floss or use other interdental cleaner (like a water flosser) to clean between teeth. Try to confine sweet treats to mealtimes or clean your teeth about 30 minutes after consuming them.

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How CariFree is Different

CariFree products can help interrupt the disease process a number of ways, preventing cavities from ever forming. The unique pH correcting formula of CariFree products helps make the oral environment unfavorable for acid-loving, caries-causing bacteria. The high pH from the CariFree system also protects tooth enamel from having minerals dissolved away in acidic conditions. The products contain nano hydroxyapatite, which the teeth can use to repair missing minerals from the enamel, particularly in the high pH environment the products create. Xylitol, a natural, non-nutritive sweetener, has several dental benefits. It makes bacteria less able to stick together in a tough to remove biofilm. Caries-causing bacteria also eat the xylitol but cannot use it for energy or to reproduce. So, the bacteria starve to death while eating xylitol.

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