Plaque, tartar, gingivitis – Do you understand the difference?

Plaque, tartar, gingivitis

What’s the difference?

You’ve heard the terms in TV ads, seen them in print ads, and perhaps noticed them on the labels of a variety of dental products. But what do the terms plaque, tartar, gingivitis and (worse) periodontal disease really mean?

Our mouths are full of bacterial in healthy mouths there is a natural balance of different bacterial species. However, when any one of the families of bacteria dominates an area, their levels of toxins increase to a point where they stimulate the immune system and cause an infection.

Proper daily brushing and flossing remove these bacteria from the mouth ensuring that they do not overgrow.

Sadly, a common mistake that many people make is to brush, but not to floss! Not flossing allows these bacteria to build up to dangerous levels between the teeth where brushing alone can’t reach.

Plaque is a sticky, yellowish-white film composed of bacteria, small particles, proteins and mucus. If you don’t floss regularly this damaging substance continuously accumulates on your teeth and gums.

The good news is that with proper daily brushing and flossing, plaque can be removed.

However, if plaque is not removed, it will calcify (or harden) over time. This ‘hardened’ plaque is called tarter and it can no longer be removed simply by brushing and flossing. It must be removed by a dental professional. The big problem with plaque and tartar is the longer they’re left on your teeth and gums, the more harmful the bacteria and the plaque become.

Many of these more nasty bacteria are called anaerobes. Large clumps of bacterial plaque at the gum line are fertile environments for there more hostile anaerobic bacteria which can release toxins that damage your gums.

They also cause gum infections and inflammation which activates the immune system. This is called gingivitis and the first stage of gum disease.

Professional dental cleanings during your regular dental checkups remove the tartar that proliferates the bacteria. But left unchecked, gingivitis may progress to periodontal disease which is extensive to treat, sometimes requiring surgery.

See us every six months to reduce the risk of serious periodontal disease. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Yours for better dental health,

Dr. Russell Grover