Most people love the feeling of freshly cleaned teeth from their dental professional. Dentists, Hygienists and Oral Health Therapists are trained to remove plaque and tartar build-up and have some specialised equipment to do a thorough job.
Tartar build up is also known as calculus or more commonly scale. Your saliva contains minerals that play an important role in protecting your teeth against tooth decay and erosion. These minerals can calcify or form scale upon the tooth surface which can have some negative effects on your oral health.
So what is good about Tartar or Calculus?
As mentioned, the minerals in saliva help to neutralise harmful acids from sources such as bacteria, stomach contents (reflux) and dietary sources such as soft drink or juice. It can also help to repair the early stages of tooth decay and erosion. A healthy mouth has adequate saliva of good quality. If your mouth is dry due to dehydration or as a side effect of some medications then you miss out on this protective mechanism and generally have a higher incidence of dental decay.
So what is bad about Tartar or Calculus?
Lots of calculus is bad for your gums and can be a sign that you are not cleaning effectively. Calculus forms on the soft bacteria deposits called plaque. So if you leave plaque behind for too long it may become hardened. When this happens at the gumline, bacteria cause damage which starts as gingivitis and if left untreated can develop into more advanced periodontal disease. It is also a leading cause of bad breath.
Yes and no. Tartar is really tough, if not impossible to remove with a brush. It is resilient to most things other than specialised dental instruments and equipment. The main aim is to reduce how much of it forms in the first place. So if you have a lot of tartar on your teeth, one of the only ways to get it off
Even the world’s best tooth cleaners will have some tartar build up between visits to the dentist. For the most part it comes back to the basics of regular and effective brushing and flossing.
If you use a soft brush to clean thoroughly and gently at the gum line twice a day, you will remove the plaque before it has a chance to be calcified. The best times to brush are after breakfast and before bed.
Electric brushes are generally more effective than regular brushes and are a great way to reduce plaque build up. They are typically easier to grip and maneuver into difficult spots and are a useful alternative to a traditional manual toothbrush.
Flossing is equally important as it is the only way you can remove plaque and food debris from between teeth. There is a large amount of surface area that your brush cannot reach, and it is common for significant gingivitis and periodontal disease issues to be present in these locations. Tartar often forms below the gum line between teeth, making it accessible for removal only by dentists with specialised instruments.
Tartar control toothpastes are available and have shown mild reduction in tartar formation levels, however they are also associated with gum irritation and are not generally recommended.
Some people are prone to excessive and rapid tartar build up which is often frustrating. It may be caused by excessive saliva or a high mineral content and simply requires more regular at home and professional cleaning.
Professional cleaning is the only proven and reliable way to remove tartar. The use of the ultrasonic cleaning devices to break up the scale is the most efficient method to get back to a clean tooth surface. The vibration, combined with an essential cooling water spray removes the tartar without damaging or heating the tooth. Dentists and Hygienists also use other instruments to access challenging areas that your toothbrush and floss are unable to reach.
Keeping your teeth as clean as possible at home is the best way to reduce build up and minimise the risk of decay and gum disease. It also means that your trips to the dentist are likely to be easier with fewer complications.