Each year, 100 million Americans forego a dental visit, and that’s a big problem when it comes to maintaining a healthy smile.1 Before your calendar fills up with work events, school activities, and more, schedule routine dental appointments for yourself and your family. No matter how good your oral hygiene habits may be, a dental visit provides benefits that regular brushing and flossing can’t, like removing tartar buildup.
Differences between plaque and tartar
Plaque is a colorless film of bacteria that sticks to teeth. These bacteria create acids that cause decay and irritate gums. Luckily, plaque can be removed with daily brushing and flossing.2 But when plaque stays on your teeth for too long, it hardens or calcifies3 along your gumline and forms tartar.4 Once this happens, regular brushing is not sufficient for removal, and that’s bad news for your gums. By pushing your gums away from your teeth, tartar creates pockets that allow bacteria to grow. If tartar isn’t removed with regular professional cleanings, it can cause gum disease, also known as periodontitis, and can even lead to tooth loss.5
How your teeth are cleaned at a dental appointment
During a routine cleaning, your dentist or hygienist uses a modified mirror to find unwanted residue and a metal instrument called a scaler to remove plaque and tartar. The scaler has a bladelike tip that allows them to scrape above and below your gumline as well as in between your teeth. They might also use a vibrating device called an ultrasonic scaler to shake plaque and tartar free. They can then wash away these bacteria with water. When they have sufficiently removed all plaque and tartar, they polish your teeth with an electric brush and polishing paste. The last step is a thorough flossing to make sure there’s nothing hiding between your teeth.6