It’s not uncommon to hear your dentist in Sparks toss around the words ‘plaque’ and ‘tartar’ almost interchangeably. In fact, we’ve realized that this could cause some confusion, and as always, we want to help our patients understand the difference between the two. Join us as we take a look at what exactly plaque and tartar are, and how they can affect your family’s oral health.
What is Plaque?
When trying to remember the difference between plaque and tartar, it may help to think of the two Ps. Plaque is the primary, or first, thing that can affect your teeth. Plaque is a sticky film that’s basically made up of millions and millions of bacteria. It naturally builds up on teeth throughout each day, and as we eat, the plaque bacteria are also eating. As a byproduct of this feeding, the bacteria release acids. These acids can erode tooth enamel, weaken teeth, and make it easier for cavities to form. However, when we effectively remove plaque through brushing, we can help reduce the number of bacteria and lower the risk of decay and the need for fillings from your Sparks dentist.
What is Tartar?
So what happens when plaque remains on the teeth for too long? That’s where tartar comes into play. When plaque isn’t effectively removed it will harden into tartar. Now, while plaque can be cleaned away through at-home brushing, tartar is a different story. Once plaque hardens into tartar it can’t be removed through regular brushing. Your dentist in Sparks will need to intervene to thoroughly remove tartar buildup. If tartar is not removed, it can increase the risk of cavities, cause tooth discoloration or tooth sensitivity, and can even lead to gum disease.
How to Avoid Plaque and Tartar Buildup
Avoiding plaque buildup and, in turn, tartar isn’t difficult, but it does require good oral hygiene habits. Make sure you’re brushing your teeth each morning and before bed every night for two minutes each time. Additionally, it’s important to remove plaque that may have accumulated in between teeth by flossing once a day. In between brushings, try to drink plenty of water to help neutralize and rinse away acids, and also to remove bacteria. You can also chew sugarless gum after meals and snacks. And as always, try to avoid sugary sweets and drink as it will make for both a happier, healthier smile and a happier dentist.
The truth is, everyone’s teeth will accumulate some plaque and some tartar. The important thing to remember is that this buildup needs to be removed through both brushing and flossing properly at home and seeing your dentist regularly. That’s why we always recommend that our patients visit us every six months for a checkup and thorough cleaning to remove any tartar that may have formed since their last appointment.
If it’s been longer than six months since your last dental appointment, we welcome you to call and schedule a checkup today. We can’t wait to see you!
We know we talk about gum health and gum disease a lot, but we believe that we can’t share enough information about how maintaining healthy gums can not only protect your oral health but your overall health, too. Your dentist in Sparks knows that poor gum health can lead to gum disease, and gum disease can lead to problems throughout the body, including heart disease. Now, recent research from the National Institute on Aging suggests that gum disease may also cause Alzheimer’s.
National Alzheimer’s Disease Month
Alzheimer’s Disease is a form of dementia that affects more than 5 million Americans, and every November we recognize National Alzheimer’s Disease Month in honor of these patients. Until recently, research regarding what causes Alzheimer’s has been limited, which can be frustrating to patients, families, and doctors alike. But thanks to this research, we may be closer to identifying a cause than ever before.
Gum Disease & Bacteria
Our mouths contain hundreds of different types of bacteria. Some of these bacteria are good and others are bad. The bad bacteria are what concern your dentist in Sparks as well as Alzheimer’s researchers. One of these bad bacteria, known as Porphyromonas gingivalis, is at the forefront of the study conducted by the National Institute on Aging. This bacteria, which was found as the leading cause of gum disease in over 6,000 participants, may produce something called plaque of beta-amyloid proteins. Why does this matter? Plaque of beta-amyloid proteins is one of the key indicators of Alzheimer’s Disease.
In yet another study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers looked at brain tissue from both patients with Alzheimer’s and patients without. What did they find? Interestingly, the brain tissue from dementia patients contained gum disease bacteria, while brain tissue from non-dementia patients did not.
Even though these studies seem promising and may bring us closer to finding a cause and a cure for Alzheimer’s, we need to note that additional research is still needed.
Protect Your Gums
Whether or not gum disease causes Alzheimer’s or not, it’s still important to protect your gums against disease. Untreated gum disease can lead to tooth loss or bad breath, and the infection can enter the bloodstream and begin to affect other areas of the body, including the heart and perhaps the brain. The best ways to protect your gums include:
- Brushing and flossing every day
- Avoiding tobacco
- Seeing your dentist in Sparks twice a year
Bi-annual visits to your dentist help remove plaque buildup in your mouth that at-home brushing alone can’t touch. This further protects your teeth against cavities and your gums against disease. If it’s been longer than six months since you’ve seen a dentist, schedule an appointment today.