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Plaque and tartar on teeth

Tartar and plaque on teeth; Calculus

Plaque is the sticky coating that forms on teeth from a buildup of bacteria. Tartar is hardened plaque.

Information

Your dentist or hygienist should show you the correct way to brush and floss. Prevention is key to oral health. Tips for preventing and removing tartar or plaque on your teeth include:

  • Brush at least twice a day with a brush that is not too large for your mouth. Choose a brush that has soft, rounded bristles. The brush should let you reach every surface in your mouth easily, and the toothpaste should not be abrasive.
  • Electric toothbrushes clean teeth better than manual ones. Brush for at least 2 minutes with an electric toothbrush each time.
  • Floss gently at least once a day. This is important to prevent gum disease.
  • Using water irrigation systems may help control bacteria around your teeth below the gum line. 
  • See your dentist or oral hygienist at least every 6 months for a thorough teeth cleaning and oral exam. Some people who have periodontal disease may require more frequent cleanings.
  • Using solutions you swish in your mouth may help identify areas of plaque buildup.
  • Well-balanced meals will help keep your teeth and gums healthy. Avoid snacking between meals, especially on sticky or sugary foods. If you do snack in the evening, you need to brush afterward. No more eating or drinking (water is allowed) after the bedtime brushing.

References

Chow AW. Infections of the oral cavity, neck, and head. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 65.

Teughels W, Godts C, Quirynen M, Jakubovics N. Biofilm and periodontal microbiology. In: Newman MG, Takei HH, Klokkevold PR, Carranza FA, eds. Carranza's Clinical Periodontology. 12th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 8.

          Review Date: 2/5/2018

          Reviewed By: Ilona Fotek, DMD, MS, Dental Healing Arts, Jupiter, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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