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What is that colorless, sticky film you can feel on your teeth after you eat? Even though you can’t see it, you can definitely feel it! This is plaque which forms when the harmful bacteria in your mouth react with sugar and starches from the food you eat (and beverages you drink). Plaque creates acid that can erode your tooth enamel, and can form four to twelve hours after brushing.

Once it hardens into tartar, it bonds to your enamel and you will have to see your dentist to remove it by using scaling instruments. Because tartar is porous, it becomes a crusty deposit that traps stains on your teeth. Drinking tea, coffee and wine, or smoking tobacco, can all stain your pearly whites. As calcium and phosphate bind together to form crystals on your teeth, tartar tends to accumulate above the gum line, and can irritate gum tissue and turn into gum disease over time.

How to Control Tartar

1. Take time out twice a day to brush your teeth for about two minutes each session. This will ensure that plaque is being removed, and brush with a soft-bristle toothbrush to clean the gums without irritating them.  Research says powered toothbrushes (whether electric or battery) can be more effective at cleaning hard-to-reach areas in the back of the mouth. Not only are they effective, they are easier to use by people with limited manual dexterity. This can include children, people with disabilities, and older people struggling with arthritis.

2. The toothpaste you use can also aid your oral health efforts. Using a tartar-control toothpaste can curb plaque, and if it has fluoride it can help repair damaged tooth enamel as well.

3. After brushing, take an extra minute or two to floss between teeth and near the gum line. Do this once a day using a water floss, waxy ribbon floss, or a hand-held pre-threaded pick. All are effective at removing bacterial debris.

4. At the end of your brushing and flossing routine, rinse well with water. Once a day, use an antiseptic mouthwash to kill lingering bacteria that could turn into plaque.

5. What you eat and drink can have a huge impact on your oral health. Eat a balanced diet, and limit exposure to sweets and starches. If you snack, rinse well to help remove food particles. If you sip sweetened drinks during the day, use a straw to limit exposure to tooth enamel. Drink plenty of water to avoid dry mouth. Saliva helps neutralize bacterial acids in the mouth.

6. Keep all scheduled dental visits cleanings and checkups. Your dental team will remove any tartar buildup, helping to prevent gum disease.

Our team at Art & Science Family Dentistry is here to help you achieve your healthiest smile! Please call us at 651-739-1894 to schedule your next cleaning or to answer any questions.