ThinkstockPhotos-464323669If you’ve purchased a toothbrush or mouthwash lately, you’ve probably seen the phase “tartar control”. It’s seemingly mentioned on most toothbrushes, toothpastes, and mouthwashes, but many patients don’t realize what tartar actually is, or why simple brushing, flossing, and mouthwash may not eliminate tartar entirely. To help keep your mouth healthy, it’s important to know what the goal is: what is tartar, and why is controlling tartar so important?

As you eat, bacteria and food particles combine to form a sticky yellow film known as plaque. Plaque coats your teeth – it’s difficult to clean, and it accumulates in cracks, crevices, and beneath the gum line even as you brush it off of the exposed surfaces of your teeth. The bacteria contained in plaque will damage your teeth – it creates acids that damage your tooth enamel and creates cavities. Worse still, if plaque is allowed to stay on your teeth for as little as a day, it hardens into a calcified substance known as tartar.

Just as the bacteria in plaque can cause cavities, the bacteria in tartar will damage teeth – unfortunately, as it hardens it becomes nearly impossible to remove with brushing or flossing alone. Not only can it not always be brushed off, it creates a rough surface for additional plaque to build up, and protects bacteria against your teeth, allowing them free reign to attack your tooth enamel. Typically, tartar will need to be removed with professional cleaning, which is one of the reasons dentists recommend professional cleaning every 6 months.

Because tartar is so difficult to remove, it’s often best to avoid allowing plaque to harden into tartar – by brushing twice a day, flossing every day, and using antibacterial mouthwash, you can help remove plaque before it becomes tartar. Because tartar takes 12-24 hours to harden, brushing twice a day – or after each meal – gives you multiple opportunities to catch all of the plaque before it becomes tartar. For any tartar you miss, you’ll need to rely on your routine professional cleaning to remove.

For more information on oral care contact Dr. Gary Alhadef, DDS. Make an appointment by calling 469-718-0128 or visit our website atwww.dallascosmeticdental.com.

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