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what is tartar

Everyone wishes they could have a perfect smile with only home care; unfortunately, our teeth are exposed to different agents that can cause damage to both the tooth surface and surrounding tissues.

Despite the care we take at home, there are areas where it is simply too difficult to remove dental plaque completely. This plaque will mineralize with the passage of time, thus forming tartar; often this process will go unnoticed, but it will be causing damage in our mouths.


Dental tartar, also known as dental calculus, is a deposit of food debris that calcifies when not removed for a certain period. These deposits usually accumulate on the surface of the teeth adjacent to the gums and below them, often making it difficult to notice its presence. As an accumulation of debris, tartar contains a large number of bacteria, which begin to coalesce and form acids that corrode the surface of the tooth or the enamel. 

The color of tartar ranges from yellow to brown. The color can vary for diffentreasons; for example, eating habits such as the frequent consumption of coffee, tea, dark-colored drinks, or foods that cause  tartar to take on a darker color. Another cause of the variation in  color of tartar is the time it has been accumulating, i.e., the longer it is in the mouth, the more calcified or hardened it becomes and the darker it gets.


The process of tartar formation and accumulation  is simple since it is formed from dental plaque  after consuming food. This dental plaque is colorless and soft in consistency and can be easily removed with a toothbrush and dental floss, so brushing after each meal is essential.

If this dental plaque is not removed in time, thanks to components of our saliva and the food we eat, it will begin to harden little by little into a calcified mass.he formation and accumulation of soft plaque will be difficult to remove with brushing. This process is repeated after each meal and is more frequent in remote areas where tooth brushing is deficient, such as in the back of the anteroinferior teeth.

 This hardening process can occur in two weeks, but some people are more predisposed to the formation of plaque;  the process will be much faster for them. Several studies from the American Academy of Periodontology have shown that low saliva in the mouth characteristic of smokers and those who suffer from dry mouth due to drugs or systemic diseases such as diabetes is a factor that predisposes one to increased tartar formation


Tartar is terrible for teeth and gums, and many times it is difficult for the patient to notice its presence with the naked eye. It occurs in several locations

The teeth: tartar is the accumulation of a large number of acid-producing bacteria that decalcify the hard outer surface of the tooth, called enamel, making it more susceptible to decay.

Gums and adjacent tissues: generally, tartar will accumulate below the gums, damaging the gum and surrounding tissues. Initially, it will cause gingivitis, which consists of inflammation and bleeding of the gums. If the tartar is not removed in time, the gingivitis will progress and damage, in addition to the gums, the supporting tissues of the tooth. There may be  loss of the surrounding bone, causing dental mobility and leaving the tooth in the air, a condition known as periodontitis. Several studies from the American Academy of Periodontology have shown that tooth loss due to periodontitis is a very frequent consequence of tartar.

Tartar is unsightly when it begins to take on the color of the drinks and foods we consume.  of smoking will also make it darker and cause the teeth to look unhealthy


  • Brushing: as we are exposed to the constant formation of plaque after eating various foods, it is important to brush our teeth properly. Tooth brushing should be rigorous on all surfaces, lasting at least 2 minutes and preferably after all meals. It is recommended to use brushes of an adequate size so that they can reach the deepest part of the mouth and clean the surface of the molars.
  • Dental floss: food debris between the teeth is difficult to remove by brushing alone, so the use of dental floss in these areas is essential.
  • Rinse: Currently  different mouthwashes are approved by the  American Dental Association ADA. They serve to interfere with the accumulation of bacteria on the tooth surface, making the formation of plaque slower and ultimately less.
  • Visit the dentist: Tartar can be found around and under the gums. Once the tartar is formed, it can only be completely removed at the dentist’s office. To remove the stubborn tartar, your dentist will need  special instruments and equipment. On the other hand, a preventive visit to the dentist will help  remove any plaque not removed at home with a toothbrush that is  in the process of hardening.

Your dentist will give you recommendations to improve your brushing technique, especially in the areas where more tartar has formed, reducing and preventing its formation again. It is also advisable to have fluoridations, since the tooth was continuously exposed to acids from plaque bacteria and tartar that caused demineralization of the tooth surface, weakening it and making it susceptible to cavities.


Our specialists at Channel Island Family Dental seek to give you back a natural, healthy smile. If you have any questions about this or other topics, you can contact us at Channel Island Family Dental, as well as on our Facebook page. At Channel Island Family Dental we will be attentive to your visit to make a timely diagnosis.  Besides, our dentists in Oxnard, Santa Paula, Ventura, and Port Hueneme, and Newbury Park will be able to guide you to the best treatment to give you back your best smile.

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