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What is Tartar? 6 Tips to Control Buildup

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You know it's important to brush and floss your teeth to prevent tartar buildup.

But do you know why? What is tartar? How does it get on your teeth? And what can happen if it does? Get the facts straight ahead.

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What Is Tartar?

Even if you take great care of your teeth at home, you still have bacteria in your mouth. They mix with proteins and food byproducts to form a sticky film called dental plaque. This gunk coats your teeth (even hard-to-clean areas like your back teeth), gets under your gum line, and sticks to fillings or other dental work.

Plaque can be bad news for teeth. Every time you eat, the bacteria create acids that can damage tooth enamel and lead to cavities. The acids can also lead to inflamed or infected gums. But, if you remove plaque regularly, you can prevent permanent tooth decay.

Bigger problems arise if plaque stays on your teeth and hardens into tartar. It can form in a little over a day, and once it’s there, only a dentist or dental hygienist can remove it.

How Does Tartar Affect Teeth and Gums?

Tartar can make it harder to brush and floss like you should. This can lead to cavities and tooth decay.

Any tartar that forms above your gum line could be bad for you. That's because the bacteria in it can irritate and damage your gums. Over time, this might lead to progressive gum disease.

The mildest form of gum disease is called gingivitis. It can usually be stopped and reversed if you brush, floss, and get regular cleanings from your dentist.

If not, it can get worse, to the point where pockets form between the gums and teeth and get infected by bacteria. That's called periodontitis. Your immune system sends chemicals to fight back and they mix with bacteria and the stuff it puts out. The resulting stew can damage the bones and tissues that hold your teeth in place. Also, some studies link the bacteria in gum disease to heart disease and other health problems.

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How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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