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So you may have heard of tartar and know that it is bad for your teeth—but what exactly is tartar? By understanding the cause of tartar and (more importantly) how to prevent it, you can greatly improve your oral health. That’s why we’ve answered your most pressing questions about it. With these important facts, you can keep tartar at bay.

1. What is tartar?

If you have tartar on your teeth, it actually is quite easy to see! It’s a dark, calcified substance that hardens onto your teeth along the gum line. This hardened substance actually begins as plaque—the colorless, sticky film of bacteria that naturally forms on your teeth. Plaque is quite easy to remove with standard brushing or flossing, but if it is left on the teeth for too long it becomes tartar.

2. How can I remove it?

Unfortunately, once plaque becomes tartar, brushing and flossing methods are no longer successful in removing it. Tartar must be removed by a dental professional using a technique known as scaling, which requires special instruments. Therefore, if you notice any buildup on your teeth, it is important to pay a visit to your dentist.

3. How harmful is tartar?

You may be surprised to learn that it can actually be quite damaging to your oral health. Tartar can behave like a trap along the gum line for harmful bacteria. This can irritate the gums and lead to gingivitis, an infection of the gums and the earliest stage of periodontal (gum) disease. Gum disease is a serious oral health issue that should not be ignored, as it can lead to many health issues like respiratory illness, stroke, heart disease, and even complications with pregnancy.

4. What causes tartar buildup?

Wondering why you may be more susceptible to tartar than others? It may actually be a result of your diet. If you eat a lot of sugary or starchy foods, the bacteria in plaque feast on these foods and flourish. And with more plaque hidden in those hard-to-reach places in your mouth, the more opportunity is has to transform into it. Therefore, be sure to maintain a well-balanced, nutritional diet.

5. Can I prevent buildup?

The good news is that it is quite easy to prevent! You just need to be diligent about removing plaque from your teeth and gums. To do so, simply maintain a solid dental hygiene routine of regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash. You should also visit your dentist at least once every six months, as they will perform a thorough professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth.

To remove buildup and improve your oral health, be sure to schedule your next routine dental check-up! Call Downtown Dental in the Loop or River North today to set up your appointment.