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What do you feel when you run your tongue along the back of your teeth? Do you feel a sticky, slightly rough coating along the bottom, near the gum line? That is plaque, where bacteria in your mouth react with sugar and starches from food by producing erosive acids that can wear down tooth enamel. Plaque can form anywhere from four to twelve hours after brushing your teeth.

Unless you brush this film off with your daily brushing routine, this sticky, plaque film will harden and bond to your enamel, becoming tartar. Tartar is porous and it becomes a crusty deposit that traps stains on your teeth. Tartar is more visible if you are a habitual tea, coffee or wine drinker, or if you use tobacco, by staining your pearly whites. As calcium and phosphate bind together to form crystals on your teeth, tartar builds above the gum line, turning into gum disease as it irritates the gums. Tartar can only be removed by your dentist using scaling instruments.

How to Prevent Tartar

Brush: Clean your teeth for about two minutes, twice a day to remove plaque. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and don’t forget the gum line. If you have trouble cleaning your teeth properly, switching to a powered toothbrush can help. Studies show they are more effective at removing plaque than manual toothbrushes. They reach the back teeth and are easy to use by people with limited manual dexterity (children, people with motor disabilities, anyone with arthritis).

Toothpaste: A tartar-control toothpaste can help cut down on plaque and if fluoride is added it will help repair damaged tooth enamel.

Floss: Floss at least once a day using one of the various flossing tools available in your drugstore: anything from waxy string or ribbon floss, pre-threaded floss, or a water flosser.

Mouthwash: Adding an antiseptic mouthwash to your daily routine will kill lingering bacteria, but be cautious with alcohol-based mouthwashes as they can cause dry mouth.

Diet: Limit your daily intake of sweets and starches and snacking in general. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that supports teeth and gum health.

Saliva: Saliva helps neutralize bacterial acids in the mouth. Stay well-hydrated and chew sugarless gum to help stimulate saliva production.

Dental Cleanings: Schedule dental checkups and cleanings twice a year if possible. Your dentist will remove tartar buildup during these visits to prevent gum disease.

We hope this helps! Please give our staff at Cascade Dental Care a call at 360-425-8140 if you have any questions or would like to schedule your next cleaning.