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Plaque Vs. Calculus

Posted on December 09, 2021

We wake up in the morning and our tongue feels something sticky along the surface of our teeth. We had a great time at the party last night. The strawberry shortcake was out of this world. So was the delicious sangria. Oops! We forgot to brush our teeth last night! What is that sticky transparent film on my teeth? That biofilm is known as dental plaque.

What Is Plaque?

Plaque is a sticky transparent film composed of broken-down sugars (sucrose) and anaerobic, gram-negative bacteria that always exist in our mouths. Streptococcus mutans is the main player in the formation of decay and periodontal disease. Plaque forms at the gum line and in between teeth and forms in the following stages:

  • Attachment occurs within four hours of last brushing
  • Growth of microbes
  • Maturation of microbes
  • Erosion of tooth

Streptococcus mutans + sucrose = Dextran. This makes plaque sticky

Streptococcus mutans + sucrose = fermentation = lactic acid = decay of enamel

Plaque buildup leads to dental decay and periodontal disease.

How To Prevent Plaque Accumulation

  1. Brush teeth 2x daily with a small, soft bristle brush or electric brush i.e. Sonicare.
  2. Floss teeth 1x daily, preferably before going to sleep.
  3. Use a non-alcoholic fluoride mouthwash.
  4. Visit 209 NYC Dental 2x yearly for cleaning and checkup.
  5. Dramatically decrease refined sugars in your diet.
  6. No tobacco use and never smoke.

How To Remove plaque

The good news is that plaque can be removed at home. Brush, floss, rinse and decrease sugar consumption.

What Is Calculus?

This is not a difficult math class. Calculus is calcified dental plaque. When plaque is left on teeth too long, the plaque picks up mineral salts, primarily Calcium Phosphate, from the saliva and forms the hard calculus or dental tartar. The calcified plaque is hard to remove. Usually, a dentist or a hygienist must remove the calculus using a procedure known as deep cleaning.

Calculus is more virulent than plaque and leads to decay and severe periodontal problems. The physical hard rough surface of calculus is a magnet for more food debris, sugar, and bacteria to accumulate. Thus its mere existence keeps making the situation worse and worse. The acids produced by the bacteria and sugar  (in the hardened calculus) will destroy the epithelial connection of the gum to the periodontium (bone)  producing a pathological crevice known as a pocket. Pockets will trap more food debris and bacteria, eat away more of the supporting bone, and allow infection to occur which will lead to eventual loss of the tooth. Bacteria in pockets will produce a fetid odor.

In summary, plaque is bad but calculus is worse.

How to Remove Calculus

Some home remedies, including scrubbing one’s teeth with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, we have found to be not effective.

The best way to remove calculus is by having a hygienist or dentist do a deep cleaning which includes scaling and curettage under the gum. Deep cleaning is the only proven way of removing this malady.

209 NYC Dental

209 NYC Dental is a multispeciality dental practice. One of the pillars of our care is prevention. Our board-certified periodontist, Dr. Jim Wang, heads a staff of dedicated hygienists and dentists that will teach you how to prevent tartar from forming and remove it if it should appear. We are open seven days a week ready to keep breath fresh and your smile glistening and can answer any question you have about plaque vs. calculus. Contact us today at 212-355-2290!

About Dr. Ben Ifraimov

Dr. Ben Ifraimov is a top cosmetic and restorative dentist in New York City, providing the highest caliber of care for his patients at 209 NYC Dental in the Midtown East neighborhood of Manhattan. Dr. Ifraimov has extensive training in all areas of dentistry, providing the most advanced treatments for an array of oral health issues, including implant restorations, crowns and bridges, porcelain veneers and onlays, cosmetic bonding and Zoom whitening, as well as routine cleaning and examination, gum disease care and treatment, and treatment of dental emergencies.

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