What is dental calculus or tartar?



The question ‘what is dental calculus’ comes up frequently. Many people accumulate some form of calculus, which is the hard white mineral deposit that can accumulate at the base of our teeth from time to time.

Understanding why dental calculus forms, the damage it can cause, and how to remove it is a key part of oral health.

How does it form?

Even the most diligent brusher finds it difficult to remove every tiny spec of plaque when they are cleaning their teeth. These remnants of plaque can become hardened by calcium, phosphate and other minerals that occur naturally in our saliva. Once there is a little bit of calculus, it creates a rough surface that makes it more likely that further plaque will accumulate. As the process continues, more and more calculus builds up.

Where does it form?

The most common places to have calculus deposits accumulate are on the inside of the lower front teeth, and the outside of the upper back teeth. This is because these areas are commonly exposed to the minerals in our saliva. The other most common area is in between the teeth, because using a toothbrush alone usually isn’t effective in removing plaque from these tight spaces.

Interestingly, in patients who have poor saliva quality, low saliva flow, reflux, or a very high acid diet, calculus does not tend to readily form. Unfortunately, these patients are much more susceptible to dental disease caused by acid such as decay or erosion.

How do you manage Calculus?

So an important question is, why do we need to remove it? The problem is that If calculus is left for too long, it can cause bad breath, gum inflammation, and periodontal disease, which can lead to loss of the bone and support for the teeth. This can cause shrinking gums (thus the phrase ‘long in the tooth’) and may even mean that the teeth are lost in some cases. At our Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo clinics, managing gum disease by regularly removing calculus is a crucial component of long term oral health.

Fortunately we are usually able to catch calculus deposits a lot sooner, and remove them before they cause damage to the teeth and gums. This is one of the reasons why regular visits to the dentist tend to mean less painful and problematic visits in the long run.

Can we help?

If you would like to discuss your preventative dental needs book a consultation with Dr Kate Amos or Dr Sam Rosehill at Ethical Dental on 6652 3185 or book online.

For more information about our preventative and hygiene services, click here. 


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