Tartar also known as calculus is a hard crusty deposit that forms on the teeth. It is a yellow or brownish a mixture of minerals in the saliva food particles and dead plaque bacterial cells. Plaque is a soft sticky substance that acuumulates on the teeth and forms from food particles suspended in saliva. When plaque hardens it becomes tartar. Tartar accumulates in the absence of proper oral care. Once it has formed only a dental cleaning by a dentist or hygienist can remove it. Brushing and flossing can remove plaque but not tartar.
Once it crustifies and attaches to the teeth tartar can grow quickly. Tartar is shaped similarly to coral reef with little pits and spaces that bacteria can crawl into and hide. Because of its attractiveness to bacteria tartar can complicate further plaque removal. If tartar remains on the teeth long enough it can irritate the gums. The gums can swell bleed and weaken to the point that they begin to ﾓpull awayﾔ from the teeth eventually leading to pocket formation between the teeth and gums.Tartar comes in two forms. Supragingival tartar is the visible deposit that forms on the top of the teeth. Supra-gingival calculus is found on the tooth surface next to the tongueon the mandibular incisors and on the buccal surfaces (area near the cheek) of maxillary molars. Subgingival tartar is just as hard and crusty but forms in pockets between teeth and gums. The pockets allow a larger amount of bacteria to form. Plaque formed on top of or within subgingival tartar must be removed before it can further damage periodontal or gum tissue and possibly the bone supporting the teeth and gums as well.
The presence of tartar does not guarantee future gum disease. Its formation varies from person to personﾗsome may notice it days after a dental cleaning; others may never experience it at all. The rate of tartar formation varies from person to person but the following factors can quicken the rate of calculus formation:
ﾷ Elevated salivary pH
ﾷ Heightened concentration of calcium in the saliva
ﾷ Increased bacterial protein and lipid concentration
ﾷ Increased concentration of protein and urea in submandibular salivary glands (the saliva-producing glands at the bottom of your mouth)
Options to remove tartar include
ﾷ Scaling/Root Planingﾗusing a pointed instrument to remove encrusted material from the root surfaces of the teethﾷ Debridementﾗremoval of plaque and calculus using a combination of hand-held instruments and an ultrasonic device; the device uses water and high-frequency vibrations to loosen plaque and tarter from the teeth.