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Difference between plaque and tartar

Do you know what the difference is between plaque and tartar? Has your dentist recently mentioned these words to you at your latest check up?

Read our latest blog to find out the differences between to the two, and to find out what they mean in terms of your dental health.

What is plaque?

Plaque is a clear sticky film of bacteria that builds up over time on our teeth, which is perfectly normal and can be removed simply by brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing.

Though plaque on it’s own isn’t too much of an issue, when sugar is introduced into the mix then it becomes a different story. The bacteria feeds off the sugars and creates harmful acids in the process, and overtime, these acids can erode the surface of your teeth, resulting in tooth decay and cavities.

These dental acids can then go on to reach the pulp of your tooth, causing irreversible damage in the process. If this happens you may need root canal treatment to save the tooth, or you could even lose the tooth entirely and require a dental implant or bridgework to fill the gap.

Plaque can also irritate your gums, potentially leading to gum disease. Gingivitis, which is an early form of gum disease, can usually be reversed through good oral hygiene, but more severe gum disease can lead to gum recession and tooth loss.


What is tartar?

If plaque isn’t brushed away it can calcify and turn into tartar. This can happen in as little as 48 hours, which is why it’s so important to brush and floss your teeth! However, unlike plaque, tartar isn’t clear in colour. It normally shows as a shade of yellow or brown, which does nothing for that Hollywood smile.

Worse still, you can’t just brush it away and will require a trip to the dentist or hygienist to have it removed.

Tartar usually forms around the gum-line, but it can also occur just underneath it, where it’s harder to spot, and just like plaque, tartar can cause tooth decay and gum disease.

Tartar not only causes damage, but looks unappealing too due to being porous – resulting in it staining easily. If left untreated, tartar will continue to build up and calcify – so it’s important to fast to tackle it.


At Leeds Dental Centre we try to offer the best in care, in a quality, relaxed environment. Please don’t hesitate to contact a member of our team for an appointment.

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