Calculus, Tartar, and Plaque: Is There a Difference?
Nearly everyone has seen a commercial on TV, or a box of toothpaste at a store that states that the product offers tartar control and effectively kills plaque. It is common for most people to first hear of tartar and plaque at an early age, but calculus is often a dental term which many people don’t discover until later in their life. We all know that plaque and tartar are things that we don’t want on our teeth, but what are they, and are they different?
Calculus, tartar, and plaque are similar because they are all caused by the same bacteria in our mouths; the difference between them is the amount of the bacteria that has accumulated over time, and what stage the accumulation is at.
Plaque is the clear film composed of bacteria that develops on your teeth throughout the day. Plaque usually poses little threat to our oral health when we practice proper oral hygiene by brushing and flossing our teeth twice a day. The problem that arises from plaque is often caused by lax oral hygiene which leads to the accumulation of plaque on teeth and below the gumline, causing cavities and periodontal diseases such as gingivitis. When accumulations of plaque are left untreated, calculus and tartar begin to form.
Calculus and Tartar
Calculus and tartar are different names for the same substance that comes from the second stage of plaque accumulation where the bacterial film begins to harden. The development of tartar (calculus) leads to rapid tooth decay, and increases the severity of gum infections. Tartar will always need to be removed through a special procedure by a periodontist, followed by special care to allow your gums to heal, and prevent the tartar from developing again.
Do your best to avoid the accumulation of plaque, and the development of tartar (calculus) by practicing proper oral hygiene and receiving routine tooth cleaning procedures from your dentist.