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Dental Tartar - Why is it Formed And How is it Removed?

Dental tartar is a very widespread oral problem. In this article we are going to address why it is formed, what consequences it can have and how it can be removed.

1) What is dental tartar?

Dental tartar or dental calculus is a calcification of bacterial dental plaque that accumulates around the teeth.


1a) What is dental plaque?

Dental plaque or biofilm is a sticky, whitish substance that adheres to the surface of the teeth. This plaque can be easily removed by brushing, but if not done correctly, it can calcify due to the minerals present in saliva and give rise to the aforementioned tartar.


2) Why does dental tartar form?

Dental calculus is formed by the precipitation of minerals present in saliva, such as calcium and phosphorus. This tartar has a yellowish or brown appearance, with a rough surface and it can´t be removed by normal brushing. These are the main reasons for its development:

2a) Poor or incorrect dental hygiene

The main cause of tartar formation is the lack of hygiene, which causes an accumulation of dental plaque on the surface of the teeth. An incorrect brushing technique can also have these consequences.

2b) The composition of saliva

Another important factor is each person's saliva´s composition. The pH of saliva ranges from 6.5 to 7.5. An acidic pH can favor the demineralization of teeth and the appearance of cavities, but a basic pH favors the formation of dental calculus.


2c)Diet and the formation of tartar

The consumption of certain foods can cause this saliva pH to vary, and thus favor the appearance of calculus on the teeth.


3) What types of dental tartar are there?

Depending on the location where it is formed, two types of tartar are described:

3a) Supragingival tartar

Supragingival tartar is located above the gum and is visible to the naked eye. It is less harmful and easier to remove.


3b) Subgingival tartar

Subgingival tartar is located at the root of the tooth below the gum and is not visible to the naked eye. This subgingival tartar is the most dangerous, since it is one of the causes of periodontal disease. In order to detect this tartar, it is important to perform x-rays and a periodontal probing.


4) What problems can dental tartar cause?

Millions of bacteria accumulate in dental plaque and tartar that can cause various problems:

4a) Tooth decay

Tartar can be one of the triggers of tooth decay, an infectious disease caused by bacteria that exist in the mouth. When we consume sugary products or hydrates, these bacteria during their metabolism create acids capable of destroying tooth enamel.


4b) Periodontal disease

Tartar is one of the main causes of periodontal disease. We speak of gingivitis when this disease causes inflammation of the gum, but does not affect the dental bone. In case of affecting the bone structure, then we would speak of periodontitis.


4c) Bad breath

The accumulation of tartar and plaque on the teeth and other parts of the mouth is one of the main causes of halitosis or bad breath.

4d) Systemic diseases

Multiple recent studies link the bacteria present in dental plaque and tartar with heart problems, arthritis, colon cancer, brain stroke, etc.


4e) Aesthetic problems

In addition to the health problems already mentioned, tartar has a negative aesthetic effect, as it can give teeth a dark and dirty appearance.


5) How to remove dental tartar

As the stone is a compact mineralized structure, it is not removed by simple brushing, and depending on the depth at which it is found, the treatment will vary:

5a) Periodontal prophylaxis or professional cleaning

This common type of cleaning is enough to remove supragingival tartar, that is, the one above the gum. This periodontal prophylaxis includes the use of instruments such as ultrasounds and curettes, used especially to remove tartar from the surface of the teeth.


5b) Scaling and Root planing

Scaling and root planing is a technique used to remove subgingival tartar, that is, tartar that is under the gum but is not yet too deep. It is performed under local anesthesia, using instruments called curettes that are inserted through the gum to reach the tartar that is attached to the surface of the roots. The objective is to eliminate the tartar and the toxins generated by the bacteria accumulated in it that cause the gum to become inflamed.


5c) Periodontal surgery

If this subgingival tartar is very deep and the access through the gum does not allow it to be removed, it will be necessary to undertake periodontal surgery. This treatment consists of making incisions in the gum to separate it and to be able to correctly access the entire contour of the root. In this way we can remove tartar, polish the surface of the roots to prevent re-accumulation of tartar, remove the affected gum tissue, re-contour the bone around the tooth if necessary and finally suture the gum.

This treatment means that the gums will be in a lower position, with which there will be more spaces between the teeth and will give a "longer" tooth appearance. These new spaces created between the teeth will be the ones that are very important to clean correctly, using specific interdental or interproximal brushes.


6) How to prevent the formation of dental tartar

It is very important that in addition to brushing after each meal, floss and use interproximal brushes when necessary. This can prevent the formation of plaque and tartar between the teeth and prevent cavities. It is advisable to use a brush of medium hardness and with the correct technique, to avoid damaging the gums due to excessive pressure.

Also we must not forget to clean the tongue correctly. The tongue is the part of the mouth that accumulates the most bacteria, hence its importance to clean it regularly. For this, the toothbrush itself or specific instruments called tongue scrapers can be used. Although the daily hygiene routine at home is the most important thing, it is advisable to go to the dentist at least twice a year and perform the professional dental prophylaxis recommended by your dentist.

6a) Tartar treatment in A Coruña

If you live in A Coruña and have an oral problem related to tartar or dental calculus, the team of doctors at the Pardiñas Dental Medical Clinic is a specialist in this matter, so we will be happy to assist you.

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