Cosmetic Dentistry Blog Cosmetic and General Dentistry Questions Answered

December 17, 2007

Excessive tartar buildup

Filed under: Gum disease — mesasmiles @ 7:27 pm

Dr. Hall,
My problem is excessive tartar build-up. My hygienist has asked me to come in every four months instead of the usual six months in an effort to clean them before the plaque hardens further. My teeth cleaning regime includes flossing once a day, using a Sonacare toothbrush for 10 minutes twice a day, brushing with a regular soft bristled toothbrush and toothpaste, and brushing with baking soda (I added this step when I found that plaque is acidic in nature and thought perhaps the baking soda, as an alkali, might neutralize the plaque). All this, and with my four month checkup approaching, my teeth feel scuzzy and I dread the visit to the hygienist, who, I believe, hates to see me coming!

Any advice on fighting this plaque/tartar problem?
– Judith in Arizona

You’re doing all the right things as far as combating this tooth tartar problem.
When you have a lot of tartar or calculus, here’s your checklist:
1. Get your teeth cleaned more frequently.
2. Don’t miss a day flossing or brushing. When you give the plaque more than 24 hours undisturbed, you’re letting it harden into tartar or calculus.
3. The one thing you didn’t mention is a tartar-control toothpaste. Most major brands have a tartar-control formula that will help keep the accumulation of tartar down.

Baking soda is good for your teeth and gums, but it won’t fight tartar.

And then, to help you understand this issue, I should point out the difference between supra-gingival calculus, which is also called tartar, and sub-gingival calculus.

Supra-gingival calculus forms above the gum line, and is visible in the mouth. It contributes to gum disease. But it is relatively soft and easy to remove. When you use the word “tartar,” this is what you’re talking about.

Sub-gingival calculus forms on the root surfaces below the gum line and is not visible in the mouth. It is much harder and more difficult to remove, and is not affected by tartar-control toothpastes. It is also much more serious and if left on the teeth will contribute to serious gum disease which will involve the gradual loosening and loss of your teeth. If you have a lot of it, it can take multiple appointments for a hygienist or a dentist to remove it all.
– Dr. Hall

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About David A. Hall

Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.

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