What is tartar?

Tartar is hardened dental plaque caused by precipitation of minerals from saliva on dental surfaces. It can also be found below the gumline in periodontal pockets. You cannot remove tartar at home, it must be regularly removed by a dental hygienist.

Symptoms caused by tartar

Tartar causes gum irritation and inflammation and makes the gumline difficult to clean. The inflamed gum is red, swollen and bleeds easily. If the inflammation progresses deeper into the gums, it will damage the tissue surrounding and supporting the teeth. This disease is called periodontitis, and it can even lead to tooth loss.

Formation of tartar

The mouth always contains bacteria that attach to the tooth surface and along the gumline. This accumulated mass of bacteria is called dental plaque. Dental plaque deposited on tooth surfaces is hardened by minerals in saliva and forms tartar—how much and how quickly depends on factors such as oral hygiene and the composition of the saliva; in other words, it varies between individuals.

Tartar accumulates especially in difficult to clean areas such as tight interdental spaces. Also, on teeth adjacent to the openings of salivary glands, plaque is more inclined to harden into tartar.

Tartar can form both above the gumline and in the periodontal pocket below the gumline. Tartar deposited along the gumline and in periodontal pockets irritates the gums and provides an ideal surface for further plaque formation, which in turn causes inflammation.

Prevention of tartar

In order for the plaque not to turn into tartar, teeth should be brushed twice a day. In addition, cleaning between the teeth is of paramount importance in preventing the formation of tartar. For cleaning, dental floss, toothpicks or interdental brushes can be used depending on the size of the interdental gaps.