What is Tartar?
Tartar, sometimes called calculus, is plaque that has hardened on your teeth. Tartar can form at and underneath the gumline and can irritate gum tissues. Tartar gives plaque more surface area on which to grow and a much stickier surface to adhere to, which can lead to more serious conditions, such as cavities and gum disease.
Not only can tartar threaten the health of your teeth and gums, it is also a cosmetic problem. Because tartar is more porous, it absorbs stains easily. So if you are a coffee or tea drinker, or if you smoke, it is especially important to prevent tartar buildup.
How do I Know if I Have Tartar Buildup?
Unlike plaque, which is a colorless film of bacteria, tartar is a mineral buildup that's fairly easy to see if above the gumline. The most common sign of tartar is a yellow or brown color to teeth or gums. The only way for sure to detect tartar — and to remove it — is to see your dental professional.
How can I Prevent Tartar Buildup?
Proper brushing, especially with a tartar control toothpaste, and flossing are necessary to reduce plaque and tartar buildup.
Once tartar has formed, only your dental professional can remove it. The process for removing tartar is called scaling. During a scaling, the dental professional uses special instruments to remove tartar from your teeth above and below the gumline.