Find UK Dentists »

Tartar, also known as calculus, is dental plaque which has become hardened onto your teeth. It is also possible for tartar to form beneath the gum line and cause irritation in gum tissues. Tartar also increases the instances of plaque formation by giving plaque an ideal place to grow and adhere to. If left untreated tartar can lead to a number of serious dental problems including cavities and gum disease. The damage tartar causes is not limited to your oral health but can also affect the aesthetics of your teeth causing a serious cosmetic problem. Due to tartar's porous nature, it is able to absorb stains at an exponential rate. This is especially a problem if you drink coffee, tea, red wine or you smoke, as these substances have been shown to increase the rate of stain formation.

You can usually spot a tartar build up fairly easily. As opposed to plaque, which is colourless and film-like, tartar is a build up of minerals and can be spotted with ease if it forms above the gum line. The main indicator of tartar build up is a yellow or brown tinge to the patient’s gums or teeth. If you suspect you have a build up of tartar, then it is important to see your dentist.

Tartar is usually categorised into two types. Supragingival tartar is a term used to describe the visible deposits that build up on the top or the sides of your teeth. Subgingival tartar is the kind which builds up in pockets which have formed between your teeth and gums. These pockets provide an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, allowing them to grow at an exponential rate and cause serious damage to the gum or even the nearby bone structures. If left untreated, tartar can often lead to the loss of teeth.

Preventing Tartar

To prevent a plaque and tartar build up, it is important that you maintain a good level of oral hygiene. Brush at least twice a day for two minutes and floss your teeth regularly. Flossing helps to rub the plaque from between your teeth before it has a chance to harden into tartar. You should also clean your tongue for about 30 seconds when you brush as this will help to combat bad breath. Many mouthwashes are also available for purchase and have been shown to help control the build up of tartar. If the tartar has successfully built up, the only treatment option is professional scaling by a dentist or hygienist. In this process various dental tools are used to remove the tartar from your teeth.

« Dental Plaque Stain Removal (air abrasion) »