Causes Of Plaque And Tartar

Don’t neglect your gums recommends Foxhall Dental hygienist, Clementine Hynes

oral hygiene equipmentFrom a very young age we are encouraged by our parents and schools to take good care of our teeth and to brush them well twice a day. This is good advice but unfortunately the gums are rarely mentioned at this age. This is unfortunate as habits learned early on in life tend to stay with us as we grow up.

As a result of the focus largely being on the teeth, many of us start to get a buildup of tartar on our teeth and especially around the gum line. This can lead to gum disease as well as tooth loss if not managed better.

What is plaque and tartar?

Plaque and tartar sometimes get confused and although they are similar in some ways, they are not the same. Plaque is very common and, in fact, we all produce plaque every day of our life. It is a thin film of bacteria, both good and bad, which coat our teeth during the day and night. In itself, it is not especially harmful as long as we maintain a good cleaning regime. Whilst we may not notice plaque; if you go to bed dehydrated and wake the next morning with a white gooey substance around your teeth and gums, that is plaque. It builds up especially in warm dry places and a dry mouth is the perfect environment for that.

Tartar contains bacteria but also minerals from the saliva. Unlike plaque, which is a soft substance, tartar hardens and attaches itself to our teeth and especially on the gum line. This presents a problem in two ways; firstly, it is almost impossible to remove simply through brushing your teeth and secondly, it creates a rough surface which additional bacteria can collect on, to say nothing of substances that can cause tooth discolouration.


The best way to prevent a build up of plaque is to make sure that you stay well hydrated in the first place. Drinking plenty of water will help to produce saliva that flushes much of this away. It won’t get rid of all of it though and a good brushing and the use of dental floss is the best way to keep this to a manageable level. In truth though, it is almost impossible to remove all of this yourself and some will contribute to tartar formation, especially in those areas of the mouth that are tricky to reach with a toothbrush or floss.

To help prevent significant buildup of tartar and to remove any already in existence, the best thing that you can do is to see one of the hygienists at your popular Ipswich dentist. They will be able to give your teeth a professional clean which will remove any hardened tartar from your teeth and gum lines, leaving them fresher and healthier.

It is also worth mentioning that some of our social habits like smoking and alcohol can also increase the risk of a dry mouth and subsequent gum disease and should be avoided, or at least reduced.

Consequences of tartar buildup

As we mentioned earlier, a buildup of tartar is likely to result in gingivitis, or even periodontitis if it isn’t treated. Gum disease is not pleasant and can have a number of undesirable symptoms. These include:

Sore gums – When gum disease occurs, the gums can become red, sore and inflamed. This not only feels uncomfortable but can make eating more difficult and less enjoyable.

Bleeding gums – Especially when you brush your teeth, gums affected in this way may bleed. If you notice blood when you spit after brushing your teeth, you should contact the Foxhall Dental Practice for an appointment to have your teeth and gums checked.

Bad breath – One particularly anti social side effect of gum disease is halitosis/bad breath. We can’t always detect this ourselves, but if you notice your friends start to back away when you are talking to them, that could be why.

Loose teeth – This only occurs as gum disease becomes significantly advanced. This is the stage known as periodontitis and affects the bone supporting the teeth as well. As this degrades, the teeth can start to become loose and may even fall out. Prevention is by far the best thing to stop this but if it does reach this stage, it may be possible to save them with an invasive dental treatment known as a ‘deep clean’.

Although we may not think a great deal about our gums on a daily basis, their health is very important and not only, it seems, for our teeth. A number of studies have shown that poor gum health is a potential contributory factor in diseases such as heart disease, strokes and even some forms of dementia.

All it takes is a good home cleaning regimen, supported by a six monthly professional clean by one of our Ipswich hygienists and you should be able to minimise the risk of this problem. If you would like to make an appointment to see a hygienist, or a dentist, please call the Foxhall Dental Practice on 01473 258396.