Plaque & Tarter | Why Do They Form?

Plaque is a clear, sticky substance that constantly forms on teeth. Plaque causes the fuzzy sweater feeling that one gets on his teeth after a long period without brushing. If plaque is allowed to keep collecting on teeth and is not removed, it calcifies by minerals in one’s saliva and turns into calculus, or tartar. Tartar usually forms in hard to reach areas such as between teeth or along the gum line.


What exactly is tartar? Tartar is a yellowish deposit that is hard and can’t be removed without the use of dental instruments. This means brushing and flossing will not work to remove tartar. This is why a person comes to the dentist to have his teeth cleaned professionally. The formation of plaque into calculus varies from person to person. People who accumulate tartar quickly would benefit from tartar control toothpaste. These are found over-the-counter and are easily accessible.

How Does Tartar Control Toothpaste Work?

First, it’s important to know that tartar is made of calcium phosphate. This type of phosphate found in tartar is an insoluble form. This means that existing tartar build-up can’t be dissolved with water. The trick to a tartar control toothpaste was to find an ingredient that would bind to calcium phosphate chemically. This active ingredient, also a phosphate is called sodium pyrophosphate. Toothpastes containing the soluble sodium pyrophosphate is applied to the teeth and gums and the chemical bonding process occurs. Any calcium phosphate that had begun forming, but did not attach to the teeth is attracted to the sodium pyrophosphate.

When the new compound (calcium phosphate plus sodium pyrophosphate) mixes with water, it is washed away, instead of remaining in the mouth and being able to attach to the teeth. Tartar control toothpaste can’t remove tartar that has already formed and attached to the teeth, but can stop future deposits from forming. Since tartar control toothpastes contain a high sodium content, people who develop canker sores easily may want to avoid the product.

Preventing Tartar Build-Up

~Eat crunchy fruits and vegetables: These foods promote cleaner and healthier teeth because they do not stick to teeth after consumption. They actually aid in “scraping” off some soft foods like carbohydrates that might have accumulated on the teeth.

~Eat sour/acidic fruits (with limitation): Acidic juices from fruits like limes and lemons are natural bleaching agents. The acid also reacts with some of the foods that build up on teeth and prevents plaque and tartar build up. Although sometimes helpful, it is important to eat acidic foods sparingly because they can corrode the enamel of teeth.

~Also practice regular dental hygiene like flossing, brushing and visiting the dentist at least twice a year.

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