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What Does Tartar Look Like?

Almost half of all adults have signs of dental disease. Dental disease typically results from plaque, which is a sticky film of bacteria that can build up on the teeth and harden into tartar. If plaque and tartar are not treated and removed, the bacteria can spread to the bones and surrounding gums, so chewing becomes painful and you lose teeth. 

At Advanced Care Dentistry, Thomas O. Marxen, DDS, MSD, and the experienced dental team recommend cleanings at least twice yearly to keep tartar from building up and endangering your smile. 

How do you know if you have tartar on your teeth? Read on to learn how to identify it and what to do to prevent tartar from progressing into a serious problem.

What is tartar?

Tartar, or what we might refer to clinically as calculus, is a hardened deposit that forms on teeth when plaque — a sticky film of bacteria — mineralizes over time. While plaque is a constant presence in your mouth, it becomes a dental concern when it turns into tartar.

What does tartar look like?

Plaque is a clear film of bacteria, but tartar is pretty easy to see if it’s above the gumline. It may appear as a yellowish or brownish deposit on the teeth, usually near your gums. As it progresses, tartar hardens and solidifies, making it more noticeable. 

If you run your tongue along your teeth and feel a rough texture or detect hard bumps, it’s likely a tartar buildup.

Unlike the smooth surface of healthy teeth, tartar has a rough and porous texture. It can feel like a hard, gritty substance you can’t eliminate through regular brushing and flossing. This roughness not only affects the aesthetics of your smile but also provides a prime place for more bacteria to develop.

Tartar is also vulnerable to staining because it’s quite porous. It has a cosmetic impact on your smile, especially if you drink coffee or tea or are a smoker. 

Tartar tends to accumulate in areas that are more challenging to clean thoroughly. The back surfaces of your teeth, along the gumline, and between your teeth are common hotspots for tartar formation. This is why regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings are so important. Our hygienists can reach these difficult-to-clean areas.

Why is Tartar a Concern?

Tartar serves as a breeding ground for bacteria that can irritate and inflame the gums, leading to gingivitis. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease; you may notice its symptoms as bleeding when you brush or floss and mild swelling of gum tissue. Gingivitis can progress to more severe forms of gum disease and tooth loss if left untreated.

The rough surface of tartar provides an ideal environment for plaque to accumulate. This can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay as the acids bacteria produce attack the enamel.

Tartar can also affect the appearance of your smile. It can cause your gums to look inflamed and result in stains that make your smile dingy.

Managing tartar buildup is key to preserving your oral health. If you suspect you have tartar or have noticed changes in the appearance of your teeth, it’s time to schedule a visit to Advanced Care Dentistry for a cleaning and dental exam. Call the office or use this website to schedule an appointment.

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