Tartar, also known as dental calculus, is caused by the gradual interaction between your saliva and gum fluid and plaque on your teeth. This process is often referred to as calcification. In essence, it ultimately means that soft tissues become hard tissues. While it can happen all around your body, one of the places it’s constantly happening is your teeth.
Typically, you brush your teeth to remove bits of food and plaque from your teeth. Then again, it’s hard to get all of it. When this happens, plaque begins to take root as tartar. Once this happens, it becomes much more difficult to effectively clean your teeth with a toothbrush and floss alone. On top of this, the acids that are released by the bacteria in your mouth become more effective when it comes to slowly breaking down the enamel of your teeth, opening up weak spots for cavities and tooth decay.
If you’ve ever experienced a toothache from a cavity – there’s a great chance that this was the cause. Plaque entered your mouth, found an easy place to hide, turned into tartar, worked away at your enamel, and broke on through to the other side (as the Doors would sing). This is why you often experience cavities in hard to reach places in your mouth. If untreated, these cavities can lead to further decay, dental abscesses, and even the need for restorative treatment like a dental crown or a dental bridge. Our dentists in Orange County have placed numerous crowns for patients who either failed to treat a cavity, or didn’t even know they had one!
Tartar doesn’t just hurt your teeth though….
It can also affect your gums. Tartar that establishes a foothold near your gumline is particularly troublesome for the way it damages your gums, causes inflammation, and contributes to gum disease.
Fortunately though, gum disease doesn’t just happen all-of-a-sudden. It’s progressive. Once plaque and tartar take hold near your gumline, you’ll often develop the mildest form of gum-disease, gingivitis (which is very common, and very treatable). Again, if left untreated – it can get much worse, and much more dangerous. This leads to more serious problems, like periodontitis – which causes your gums to gradually separate from your teeth – forming pockets where debris, plaque, tartar, and bacteria can hide-out and do their damage, safely tucked away from your brush and floss. This is when a dentist’s intervention is incredibly important.
Experiencing dental pain or irritation? Get it checked out before it becomes a problem! If you’re a patient in Downey, CA our dental team is here to help with quality affordable care that keeps your smile white, bright, and long-lasting.