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Do you know what tartar is? Where it comes from and how to get rid of it? Let’s take a brief look at this mysterious substance that can inhabit your mouth. If you run your tongue along the back of your teeth, near the gum line, you can feel a sticky, slightly rough coating on your teeth. This is plaque which forms when the harmful bacteria in your mouth react with sugar (and starches) from the food and beverages you ingest. This plaque creates acid that can erode your tooth enamel, and can form four to twelve hours after brushing.

Once plaque hardens, it bonds to your enamel and becomes tartar. Tartar can only be removed by your dentist using scaling instruments. Because tartar is porous, it becomes a crusty deposit that traps stains on your teeth. Substances like tea, coffee and wine, and tobacco all stain your pearly whites. As calcium and phosphate bind together to form crystals on your teeth, tartar builds above the gum line, irritating gum tissue and turning into gum disease if left unchecked.

How to Control Tartar

No. 1. Brush your teeth twice a day, for about two minutes, to remove plaque. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and don’t forget the gum line. A powered toothbrush can be more effective at cleaning hard-to-reach areas in the back of the mouth. They are also easy to use by people with limited manual dexterity.

No. 2. Use a tartar-control toothpaste to curb plaque. Consider one with fluoride, which is proven to help repair damaged tooth enamel.

No. 3. Floss between teeth and near the gum line once a day, using a waxed string, pre-threaded floss pick, or even a water flosser.

No. 4. Rinse well with water and you can use an antiseptic mouthwash to kill lingering bacteria once a day.

No. 5. Eat a balanced diet, and limit exposure to sweets and starches. If you snack, rinse well to help remove food particles. If you sip sweetened drinks during the day, use a straw to limit exposure to tooth enamel. Drink plenty of water to maintain saliva production. Saliva helps neutralize bacterial acids in the mouth. You can also stimulate saliva by chewing sugarless gum or candy.

No. 6. Schedule bi-annual dental cleanings and checkups. Our dentists will remove any tartar buildup to prevent gum disease.

Please give our staff at the office of Dr. Timothy J. Ross, and Dr. Susan M. Chmiel a call at 414-525-0300 to schedule your next cleaning or to answer any questions.