Dentist in Reno, NV Explains the Difference Between Plaque vs. Tartar - Atencio Dentistry

A question Dr. Michael Atencio, our dentist in Reno, NV hears frequently is, “What’s the difference between plaque and tartar?” These common dental issues are often thought to be interchangeable, but it’s important to know the difference and the best prevention techniques for both. Plaque and tartar buildup is the result of bacteria in your mouth and, if left untreated, the buildup can lead to serious oral health problems. Keep reading to learn ways to inhibit the growth of both plaque and tartar.

What Is Plaque?

If plaque and tartar aren’t the same, then what’s the difference? Our dental professional wants you to know that, although plaque is inevitable, it’s the main cause of cavities and gum disease, and should be taken seriously. Plaque is a layer of bacteria and sugars that persistently forms on your teeth. Your mouth is always forming bacteria, so it’s also always forming plaque. Plaque is sticky, colorless, and can harden into tartar if not removed daily. It can also lead to gum disease, gingivitis, and tooth loss.

What Is Tartar?

Tartar is plaque that has accumulated on your teeth and is usually visible around the gum line. Tartar buildup can turn your teeth yellow or brown in color and, once hardened on your teeth, it makes flossing and brushing your teeth difficult. In this way, tartar acts as a catalyst for bacteria and plaque to grow throughout your mouth. If not removed, the buildup of tartar can cause cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay.

Controlling Plaque & Tartar

So, how can you prevent plaque and tartar buildup? Here a few helpful steps to follow:

  • Brush your teeth regularly, at least twice daily
  • Floss daily to remove plaque from between your teeth and under your gum line,

where your toothbrush may not reach

  • Limit your intake of highly acidic or sugary foods and drinks
  • Schedule professional cleanings and dental examinations twice every year

Unfortunately, once tartar has formed, a dental professional is needed to remove it. That’s why it’s important to practice good prevention techniques and see our dentist for cleanings every six months. Following this advice will help you to keep plaque and tartar under control!


Trust Your Oral Health to Our Dentist in Reno, NV 


For more oral health tips from our dentist or to schedule a dental cleaning, contact our friendly office at 775-298-6108. Our experienced team is always ready to help you achieve your best smile!

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