Managing Dental Plaque and Tartar Deposits

Plaque build-up on teeth is a common occurrence that can become harmful if left untreated. Though all patients want bright, healthy smiles, plaque deposits can mar the teeth with a yellow hue that looks unsightly and unkempt. Removal of plaque involves both professional treatment and a dental hygiene routine at home.

What is Dental Plaque?

Plaque is the accumulation of bacteria on the teeth and gums. It is a soft and sticky film that covers the tooth surface and spreads to the gums. However, as days pass, plaque hardens due to its interaction with the calcium salts present in saliva and becomes tartar. Tartar is rougher than plaque and its uneven surface makes it easier for bacteria to attach to the teeth and gums. Untreated plaque and tartar buildup can lead to more severe gum problems, such as gingivitis and periodontitis, which can cause a patient to eventually lose her teeth.

In-Office Cleaning to Remove Deposits

Removal of plaque and tartar from teeth can be done professionally when a patient visits the dentist’s office for her regular teeth cleaning. A standard dental cleaning is designed to remove normal build-up of plaque and tartar. However, if the problem is more advanced, a deep teeth cleaning might be performed. During this procedure the dentist uses scaling and root planing. Scaling scrapes away the plaque and tartar that have built up above and below the gum line and on the surface of the teeth. Root planing smoothes the rough surfaces and cleans infected areas, allowing the gums to reattach to the roots. If enough plaque and tartar have built-up, a full-mouth debridement can be performed. This is a more advanced procedure to remove plaque and tartar. At home, a patient can both prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar and remove some of it as it begins to accumulate.

How to Prevent Plaque

Prevention is based on following a good oral hygiene routine. A patient should brush at least twice a day, with a toothbrush with soft bristles, in the morning and night, if she is unable to do it after every meal. Using a combination of salt and baking soda to brush the teeth helps to remove tartar from them. The patient should also floss daily to remove any hard to reach food particles. After softening the tartar, a scaler can be used to help remove it from the teeth. Additionally, to prevent plaque accumulation, the patient can eat a well-balanced diet free of sugary foods and avoid using tobacco products.

Cost of Managing Plaque Build-up

As a patient learns how to remove plaque from teeth, she should also remember that following the oral hygiene routine at home coupled with her twice-yearly standard teeth cleanings will be much more cost effective than allowing the plaque to build up and having to go through a deep cleaning or debridement. While a standard teeth cleaning will cost the patient between $50 and $135, a deep cleaning can cost between $400 and $1600 and a debridement can add an additional $75 to $150.

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