Living so close to the ocean, it’s easy to find fresh seafood. And, while frowned upon in the kitchen, you may like it best with some tartar sauce on top. This could be your Mom’s fault, as she covered up the less-than-fresh fish sticks of your youth with gobs of tartar sauce.
But when it comes to your dental health, the team at Gentle Dental isn’t worried about what you’re going to put on that perch your uncle caught in a questionable pond down by Trenton. They’re worried about another sort of tartar that is neither tasty or on any menu — tartar also called calculus.
Once tartar has formed and locked onto your teeth, you can’t get it off at home. You need the skills of our hygienists at Gentle Dental to remove it, and not doing so leads to gingivitis.
Here’s how we de-tartar your teeth, with nary a fish stick in sight!
How tartar forms on your teeth
Plaque is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria that constantly forms on our teeth. Plaque and your toothbrush are involved in an ongoing battle. It’s kind of like that movie Groundhog Day. Every day you brush it away only to have it re-form the next day. Plaque is easy to remove with some attentive brushing and flossing. Problems come when you either don’t brush all the time or do a cursory, inattentive job of it.
If you don’t brush the plaque from your teeth, it hardens or calcifies. This calcified plaque is now called tartar. It starts on your teeth above the gums and then progresses slowly down under the gum-line. That’s the reason we recommend our Gentle Dental patients coming in twice each year — that’s the time it takes for routine tartar to build up, and it’s early enough to catch it before it makes its way under your gums. Initially, tartar under your gums slightly irritates them. This is called gingivitis. But as more tartar builds up and the gums become more irritated, they begin to pull away from the teeth. This is the beginning of gum disease, which can end up with tooth loss and extensive jawbone damage.
Like a miner with his pick
No one should have gum disease, so our hygienists are expert tartar removers. How do they do it? They use dental picks in a process called scaling. The pick is applied to the edge of the tartar, and some force is applied. Often the tartar comes off as one piece, sort of like a shell. Other times, some back and forth scraping will remove it. How stubborn your tartar is can be a factor of genetics and how long it has been since your last cleaning.
The important thing to know is that scaling is a professional job. Not only can you damage your gums and tooth enamel if you try and scrape tartar off your teeth, but you can’t do a thorough enough job so that the tartar will remain and grow. Tartar is especially prevalent on the inside of the lower bottom teeth. Just about everyone builds up tartar in that location.