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What is teeth tartar? Are Professional Teeth Cleanings Necessary?

Chăm Sóc Răng

BS Đặng Lê Hiền Trinh

Chuyên khoa BS RHM ĐH Y Dược TP.HCM Nha Khoa Thẩm Mỹ, Nha Khoa Tổng Quát

Even though you can daily clean up your teeth with toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss, you still have to remove tartar with special tools in the dentist's office every 6 months. Because using a typical toothbrush and dental floss is not able to completely remove dental plaque and tartar sticks around your teeth – a reason causing many dental problems.

1. What is teeth tartar (also called calculus)? What is dental plaque?

Teeth tartar, also called dental calculus is a layer of calcium that accumulates, it seems similar to the sediment normally accumulating in metal pipes or kettles. Most tartar will have the same color to the color of your teeth, so it is not noticeable. However, there are also some cases of brown or black tartar, especially in smokers. If long-term tartar is not removed, it becomes an ideal place for bacteria to grow and cause disease.

Many people misunderstand that scraping tartar is scraping enamel.

Dental plaque is a sticky film that coats your teeth and contains a lot of bacteria. It is also the premise for calcium accumulation and tartar production. 

Tartar interferes with normal oral hygiene such as using a toothbrush and floss, increasing dental plaque and leading to gingivitis.

In essence, enamel is a constituent, a outermost layer of tooth; the inner layer is the dentin and the pulp. Tartar is just a sediment created from saliva on dental plaque of the enamel surface, thickening day by day and becoming harder. 
teeth tartar

Tartar forms around the gum line, which causes gingivitis (red and swollen gums instead of pale pink). 

2. Where does tartar usually form?

Tartar has 2 types: below and above the gum line

Tartar above the gum line is easy to be seen, it has pale yellow or light brown to dark brown color. 

Tartar below the gum line is often noticed when a doctor examines gingival sulcus with specialized tools, difficult to be seen, locates deep below the gum line, as well as is the main cause of gum and periodontal disease.

Tartar is easily found on the inside of the lower premolars and on the outside of the upper molars, which are the places where salivary glands pours.
tartar place

Tartar is easily found on the inside of the lower incisors.


3. The harm of tartar and dental plaque.

If tartar is not removed for a long time, it becomes an ideal place for bacteria to grow. Tartar interferes with normal oral hygiene such as using a toothbrush and floss, increasing dental plaque and leading to gingivitis.

Inflammatory gums have a red, swollen surface that can easily bleed when you brush your teeth. This makes us eat uncomfortably and lose the aesthetics when we communicate with others.

Bad breath is also one of the consequences caused by bacteria on tartar decomposing food debris left over in the oral environment. 

In a severity level, if tartar has formed for a long time and accumulated more and more, it can cause severe gingivitis diseases progressing to periodontitis; lead to conditions of receding gums, tooth resorption and cause a large number of loose teeth, etc.

4. How can tartar be removed?

The removing process includes the following main techniques:

- Tartar scaling is the process of removing layers of tartar and dental plaque sticking on the teeth with suitable tools such as ultrasonic vibrators, hand tools, ...

- Teeth polishing is done after completing tartar scaling, in order to make the teeth surface shinier and smoother by tools such as machine polishing brushes, polishing powder and sand blowers can be added to professionally clean the plaque.

- Root treatment/Deep teeth cleaning: In cases of excessive tartar, especially under-gum one and often in patients with chronic periodontitis, tartar scraping is not enough to clean around the root. This time, the doctor will prescribe for root treatment with specialized tools for periodontology.

If the only treatment you need is to scale and polish your teeth, the doctor will finish it in 1 or 2 appointments and less uncomfortable. But if your teeth have tartar deep below the gums, especially periodontitis, your doctor will prescribe in-depth treatment (deep cleaning).
ultrasonic teeth cleaning

Today's tartar scaling has advanced a lot thanks to ultrasonic cleaning tools instead of manual curettage.

5. How to restrict tartar from building up again?

After removed tartar and polished, the teeth surface is now smooth and clean, dental plaque will be difficult to accumulate again and easily removed by typical cleaning methods, you should:

  • Brush your teeth after eating with fluoride toothpaste to prevent forming dental plaque and tooth decay.
  • Combined using dental floss to clean the interdental area.
tooth floss

Flossing is the modern daily cleaning teeth way recommended by doctors.

  • Rinse mouth with physiological saline, mouthwash, etc.
  • Limit the diets containing a lot of starch, sugar, colored foods such as tea, coffee, etc…
  • Smoking is not only harmful to the whole body, but also causes dental diseases: plaque, bad breath, canker sores, etc… and worsens some diseases' situation.

6. How often should tartar be scraped away?

Tartar scaling and deep teeth cleaning is recommended by doctors to do every 6 months. If the patient has pre-existing dental problems, tartar scaling must be done more often (every 3-4 months). Choosing a professional clinic will bring out for you not only clean and beautiful teeth, but also a sense of comfort after treatment.

If you regularly properly clean your teeth, your doctor just have to spend 20-30 minutes on tartar scaling. But for those who rarely have regular dental examinations and tartar scraping, tartar cleaning time can last for 40-60 minutes, and may have to be divided into 2 appointments.

The accumulation of tartar makes the tartar scraping difficult and uncomfortable, and this bad experience may make the patient less frequent tartar removing. 

You should tell your doctor about this concern, there are many ways you can ease the discomfort while removing tartar.

7. What would happen if I don’t scrape my tartar?

One thing for sure is when dental plaque and tartar is not removed, the gingivitis manifestations will be present frequently: bad breath, bleeding gums when brushing, swollen gums, etc. and obviously is the loss of aesthetics when smiling caused by stained yellow teeth and stains.

The accumulation of tartar can cause more or less harm, depending on each person. But all researchs have shown that the majority of people who do not remove tartar have a significantly higher rate of losing teeth, compared to those who scrap tartar regularly (either more or less).

bad oral hygiene

Oral health can be very bad if tartar causes periodontitis (leading to tooth loss). 

In addition, tooth diseases often lead to infections and toothache such as periodontitis, tooth decay - pulptitis, etc... have a higher rate on people who do not have tartar removed (because of the frequent presence of harmful bacteria). 

Research also shows a link between gum-periodontal disease caused by dental plaque & tartar and cardiovascular disease and diabetes (increased risk).

There is a saying that "eyes are the windows of soul", then the mouth is the "main door" to your body. The mouth is the entrance of health as well as pathology of the whole body. The oral microbiota has been shown by many studies to be related to many serious diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer, etc. The Surgeon General report said 80% of adults in the US have gum diseases, which means 4 out of 5 people involve in. Since the whole body's health is greatly influenced by oral health, good dental health care is very important to everyone.

At EDEN Dental Group, we believe Happiness must start from the foundation of Good Health, and good overall health begins with healthy teeth. Healthy gums and less harmful bacteria reduces the risk of diabetes, cancers of the mouth and digestive tract, as well as healthy mouth and good nutrition helps improve blood vessel walls, reduces the incidence of stroke or heart attack. Because dental plaque buildup on teeth is also linked to accumulation on blood vessel walls and the heart, which can cause blood clots.

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