The Difference Between Plaque and Calculus

We all know it’s important to brush thoroughly, floss regularly and use an antiseptic mouthwash within our oral care routine. Oral health is just as equally important as our general health. Being informed with facts and familiarising yourself with dental terminology, such as knowing plaque vs calculus difference, will assist you to be smarter about your overall oral hygiene practice and methodology.

What do these words mean exactly? Although these two terminologies are some of the most common words used in the dental industry today, the vast majority of individuals don’t know the difference between the two. Many believe plaque and calculus are the same thing. Get the facts straight and read ahead to discover plaque vs calculus difference, to help you be smarter when it comes to your oral regime.

What is Plaque?

Plaque is a soft, sticky, colourless to pale yellow biofilm of bacteria that is constantly forming on your teeth and along the gumline. Whenever saliva, fluids and food come in contact they create a form of bacteria that releases acid. Plaque is the build-up of food debris that produces acid, damaging your tooth enamel and gums if not removed by proper brushing and flossing. The bacteria formed from the acid can create tooth erosion, produce toxins that lead to gum disease and form cavities. If plaque isn’t removed daily it can mineralize and harden into calculus trapping stains and food debris, creating permanent damage on the enamel on your teeth.

What is Calculus?

Calculus (also known as tartar) is a mineralised plaque that’s strongly bonded to the enamel. When plaque has accumulated over time the minerals from your saliva causes the plaque biofilm to harden and therefore, develop into tartar. Individuals with braces, crowded teeth, dry mouth and who smoke have a greater risk of developing calculus. When hardened, tartar is a yellow or brown coloured deposit that forms below and above the gumline. Because of its rough formation, it can only be removed by a dental professional.

Due to its mineralised nature, calculus is porous, meaning it can absorb toxic elements between the gums. If not treated calculus may cause gingivitis, constant bleeding when brushing/ flossing and periodontal disease (periodontitis). Periodontitis is caused by bacterial damage to the periodontal tissue from poor oral hygiene. It’s a common human disease that can destroy your jawbone and tissues that support the stability and structure of your teeth. Because of the serious consequences of tartar build up, it’s important to be proactive and see your dental professional for a scale and clean.

Ways to prevent Dental Plaque and Tartar Buildup

The hard truth about tartar is only a dentist can remove it however, you can avoid the overall plaque cycle by having consistency in your oral practice. Control calculus and prevent plaque with these methods to limit the damage on your pearly whites!

  • Schedule a dentist visit every six months for a consistent check up and clean.
  • Using an electric toothbrush is an effective way to remove plaque especially in tight areas!
  • Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes to thoroughly remove any food debris from all surfaces of your teeth and in between gums.
  • Floss daily to get in between each tooth and under your gum line.
  • Incorporate a mouthwash within your routine that protects against plaque, gingivitis, cavities and removes bacteria without the burn.
  • Minimise your intake of sugary and starchy foods.
  • Avoid smoking to reduce the likelihood of tartar.