What is Plaque Vs Tartar?

Sometimes people refer to the buildup on their teeth as “plaque” or “tartar” interchangeably. While they are very similar, there is actually a difference between these two buildups.

Below is more information about the difference between plaque and tartar, the oral health conditions they can contribute to, and how plaque and tartar buildup can be avoided.

What is Plaque Vs Tartar?

Plaque and tartar aren’t the same, but they are connected. Over time, if plaque isn’t treated, it leads to tartar. To better understand this process, it’s necessary to understand what plaque is first.

Plaque is a sticky buildup on the teeth that is made up of bacteria. It’s generally yellow in appearance. Plaque is caused by food left on the teeth (sugars and starches) that isn’t properly removed. Over time, plaque can harden and turn into tartar.

Tartar is much harder to remove, and the help of a dental health professional will be required to remove it from your teeth.

What Oral Health Issues Do Plaque and Tartar Lead to?

Besides the yellow appearance, plaque and tartar can cause other issues with your teeth—some being quite serious.

Some of the oral health issues plaque and tartar can lead to include:

* Cavities/tooth decay
* Gum recession
* Tooth discoloration
* Gum disease
* Sensitivity
* Tooth infection
* Tooth loss

While certain conditions like tooth loss won’t happen immediately, tooth loss may occur if the condition is left untreated. It’s very important to take steps to avoid the formation of plaque, along with having plaque and tartar treated if they should form.

At-Home Care

One of the best ways to avoid the formation of plaque (and eventually tartar) is to take proper care of your teeth and gums at home. This means brushing, flossing, and rinsing twice a day, every day.

It’s extremely important to be thorough when cleaning your teeth. Brushing should be around 2 minutes for each session, with 30 seconds devoted to each quadrant. You’ll also need to be thorough with your flossing. Make sure you get in between each tooth. With that said floss gently enough to not damage the gums but firmly enough to remove the food from between your teeth.

If you have any questions about brushing and/or flossing, make sure you ask your dentist at your next cleaning and checkup.


Even with excellent at-home care, there is the chance of developing plaque and sometimes even tartar. Because of this, it’s extremely important to schedule an appointment with your dentist every six months for a professional cleaning and checkup. During this time, they will scrape away any buildup and check for cavities, gum disease, or any other oral health condition that needs to be addressed.

Reach Out

If you don’t have an appointment in the books for a cleaning and checkup, make sure you reach out and schedule one today! Remember: you should be visiting your dentist every six months to ensure your smile stays healthy!


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