Plaque and Tartar Control

Patients often confuse plaque and tartar and how they are related to each other. Plaque is a sticky, colorless deposit of bacteria that is constantly forming on teeth. Saliva, food and fluids combine to produce these deposits that collect on teeth and where teeth and gums meet.

Plaque buildup is the primary factor in periodontal (gum) disease. Fighting plaque is a life-long component of oral care.

Plaque begins forming on teeth 4 to 12 hours after brushing which is why it is so important to brush at least twice a day and floss daily. Plaque which is not removed by regular brushing and flossing, can harden into unsightly tartar (also known as calculus ). This hard crusty deposit creates a cohesive bond that can only be removed by a dentist (or or dental hygienist). Tartar formation may also make it more difficult for you to remove new plaque and bacteria. The photographs below show tartar, or calculus, formation from slight to heavy .

You can help reduce the formation of tartar (calculus) by:

  • Brushing with an ADA-accepted tartar control toothpaste.
  • Rinsing with fluoridated water or a fluoridated mouthwash after meals and following oral sex.
  • Having your teeth cleaned professionally every six months, or more frequently as recommended by your dentist or hygienist.

Individuals vary greatly in their susceptibility to plaque and tartar. For many of us, these deposits build up faster as we age. Fighting tartar is a life-long component of oral care.

Copyright 1996 by Kurt A. Butzin, DDS, Saginaw, MI, USA

This site developed, maintained and hosted by Molarnet Technologies, Inc.
Please report any problems or suggestions to

Entire contents Copyright (C) 1994-2015 Brad Berson and Bytebrothers Internet ServicesAnim Plug
Page updated November 24, 2001.  See Terms and Conditions of use!