What is Calculus?

Find UK Dentists »

Calculus, also called tartar, is the substance which forms when dental plaque is allowed to collect and harden on to the surfaces of your teeth. In some cases, calculus may also form underneath the gum line which can cause several problems. As well as being generally bad for your oral health, a build up of calculus will also contribute to the formation of plaque by providing the plaque-causing bacteria with an ideal breeding ground.

Calculus which is not treated can cause a range of severe dental issues such as gum disease and cavities. As well as damaging your oral health, Calculus can also be detrimental to the appearance of your teeth. This happens as Calculus can increase the absorption rate of stains, meaning they penetrate your teeth quickly and will be hard to remove. This problem can often be exacerbated by ingesting a number of substances such as red wine, tea, coffee or cigarette smoke.

Unlike plaque, which is a sticky, colourless film, calculus build up is relatively easy to spot. This is because the plaque-causing bacteria hardens into a mineral substance making it easy to spot if it occurs above the gum line. If your teeth have a brown or yellow tint to them, it is possible you may be suffering from a build up of calculus so schedule a visit with your dentist as soon as you can.

Calculus is typically split into two categories, the kind occurring above the gum line (Supragingivial) and the kind which occurs below the gum line (Subgingival). Calculus occurring below the gum line can often form in pockets which occur between your teeth and gums and this can lead to increased instances of bacteria collecting there. As the bacteria feeds and breeds, they grow and attack the surrounding gum tissues, and in more serious cases the bone structure itself. If Calculus is left unchecked, it may lead to your teeth becoming loose or even falling out.

There are a number of steps you can take to protect against a build up of calculus. First and foremost, make sure you maintain a decent oral hygiene regime with plenty of regular brushing and flossing. Flossing is especially important as it extracts the plaque-forming bacteria from between your teeth before it can form into calculus. There are also a number of dental health products on the market which can help combat the formation of calculus.

However, if you are experiencing a calculus build up, you will need to see your dentist and undergo a professional scaling treatment.

Read more in the Dental Treatment Information Guide »