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What is Tartar?

Tartar, also known as dental calculus, is a hardened deposit that forms on the teeth when plaque accumulates over time and mineralizes. It often appears as a yellow or brownish substance on the tooth surface. Tartar is a common dental condition that affects most people, but it is more severe on those with poor oral hygiene habits.

Plaque, a sticky film consisting of bacteria, constantly forms on the teeth. If plaque is not effectively removed through proper oral hygiene practices such as brushing and flossing, it can begin to harden and transform into tartar. Unlike plaque, tartar cannot be removed by regular brushing alone and requires professional dental intervention.

Symptoms of Tartar

One of the noticeable symptoms of tartar is a rough texture on the teeth. This roughness makes it difficult to clean the teeth thoroughly, even with regular brushing and flossing. As tartar accumulates, it supplies an ideal surface for bacteria to grow, leading to gum inflammation and bleeding gums.

Persistent bad breath, known as halitosis, can also be a sign of tartar build-up. The bacteria present in tartar release unpleasant odours, resulting in bad breath. Furthermore, tartar deposits can contribute to the development of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease (insert link).

Speak to a dental professional today

Our dentists have all the experience, skill and technology required to advice on tartar. Arrange an appointment with our dental team at our central London dental clinic, situated on the prestigious Wimpole Street.

What is the most common cause of Tartar?

The primary cause of tartar formation is poor oral hygiene. Inadequate brushing and flossing allow plaque to accumulate on the teeth.

Certain factors can contribute to a higher likelihood of tartar formation. Tobacco use is known to increase the accumulation of plaque and tartar on the teeth. Additionally, as we age, our saliva production decreases, making it easier for plaque to adhere to the teeth and harden into tartar. Genetics can also play a role, as some individuals may have a higher susceptibility to tartar build-up.

How do you treat Tartar?

Regular oral hygiene practices are essential in preventing tartar formation. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride containing toothpaste and using dental floss or interdental cleaners to clean between the teeth can help control plaque and minimize tartar accumulation. It is important to focus on proper brushing techniques, ensuring that all tooth surfaces are thoroughly cleaned.

Some amount of tartar buildup is often unavoidable, so professional dental cleaning techniques, such as scaling, are the most effective way to remove tartar. During a scaling procedure, a dental professional uses specialized tools to carefully scrape off the hardened deposits from the tooth surfaces and below the gumline. This process cuts the tartar build-up and helps restore a smooth and clean tooth surface.

Routine dental visits are crucial for early detection and prevention of tartar build-up. During these check-ups, dental professionals will assess the condition of your teeth and gums, remove any tartar that has formed since your last visit, and supply guidance on maintaining good oral hygiene. They may also recommend tartar-control toothpaste or mouthwash to further manage tartar formation.

In conclusion, tartar, or dental calculus, is a hardened deposit that forms on teeth due to the mineralization of plaque. It can lead to rough tooth surfaces, bad breath, and an increased risk of gum disease. Poor oral hygiene, tobacco use, ageing, and genetics contribute to tartar formation. Regular professional dental cleanings, along with consistent oral hygiene practices at home, are crucial in preventing and managing tartar build-up. By taking proactive steps to address tartar, you can maintain a healthy smile and promote optimal oral health.

Prof Christian Mehl

Written by: Prof Dr Christian Mehl

A certified implantologist and prosthodontics specialist with 20+ years in dentistry, I conduct clinical research, teach at University of Kiel, and contribute to implant system development. Recipient of the Camlog Research Award, I frequently publish and deliver global lectures.

Clinically reviewed by: Dr Raul Costa

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July 21st 2023

  • Added “when did we last update this page” and author biography to the page.

Written by: Prof Dr Christian Mehl

Medically reviewed by: Dr Raul Costa

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  • Page redesigned and updated to reflect change in address.

Written by: Prof Dr Christian Mehl

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30th August 2021

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Written by: Prof Dr Christian Mehl

Medically reviewed by: Dr Raul Costa

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