What Does Tartar Buildup Do To My Teeth?


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Steve Theunissen Profile
When plaque remains on the surfaces of the teeth, it hardens into a darker substance called by dentists "calculus" but which is commonly called "tartar." It is a light yellow to dark brown in color. It forms on the teeth along the gum line, and has very sharp edges, cutting into the gums as food is chewed. Tartar might be likened to the deposit or scale that accumulates in a teakettle after some use. It forms in layers. Though tartar is mixed with other debris in the mouth, it is, like the scale of a teakettle, made up mainly of calcium.

Tartar forms more heavily in two general areas: Outside the upper molars and inside the lower incisors. Why is this? Because these two areas of the mouth are near the opening of the salivary glands, and the saliva more readily deposits calcium salts here.

The accumulation of tartar often leads to serious gum disease. This is because the tartar, as it forms and hardens, pushes the gums away from the teeth. This results in pockets in which more tartar forms. Microorganisms and food particles accumulate in the pockets, causing more inflammation—a vicious circle. As the tartar pushes the gum away from the tooth, it darkens in color (from blood pigments).

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