Dental Plaque & Tartar – Causes and Solutions to Remove it

dental plaque tartarTartar and dental plaque are terms that all of us are aware of to some degree, but do you know the reasons why it forms? Did you also know that plaque and tartar are different things?

At Nutrident, we are committed to providing clear tooth care advice, as can be seen on our home page. In this article, we aim to provide some clarity on tartar, plaque, its causes, and how best to remove it.

What Is Dental Plaque & What Causes It?

Essentially, dental plaque is a sticky build-up that appears naturally over the surface of teeth. Known as ‘dental biofilm’ in the industry, plaque contains saliva, along with living bacteria. It’s gluey, yet almost invisible – aside from a yellow tinge and its viscose characteristics help it remain in place and subsequently feed on the carbs left on your teeth after you eat and drink.

Brushing 2-3 times a day in the correct way removes the plaque and the leftover food it relies on. This means that it isn’t allowed to spread and doesn’t produce the acid which damages tooth enamel, allowing it to harden and turn into tartar.

The importance of regular brushing can’t be underestimated, as when it’s not kept under control, dental plaque can lead to:

  • Yellow/plaque-stained teeth
  • Gingivitis (bleeding gums)
  • Tooth decay
  • Tooth loss
  • Halitosis (bad breath)

Whilst most of us love the taste of sweets and chocolates from time to time, it’s those foods and beverages that are high in sugar that encourage dental plaque build-up, so keeping your consumption of them to a minimum will really help. Combine this with an effective mouthwash, flossing and brushing routine and it’s usually enough to remove plaque that’s built up through the day and keep your teeth looking healthy and white.

How Tartar Differs from Plaque

Around ⅔ of all UK adults have visible plaque* and this is a problem because when plaque is not dealt with, it hardens and becomes tartar. When you don’t remove plaque through brushing, it can harden in just a few hours, making it trickier to dislodge and if it’s still in place after a few days, it absorbs minerals from saliva to form dental tartar.

(*The Oral Health Foundation)

Dental tartar is often found below the gum line, at the base of each tooth and in gaps between your teeth, and the longer it’s left, the darker and thicker it can become. This can then lead to more serious dental issues and tooth removal. By this point, you’ll likely not be able to remove the plaque yourself and will need to book an NHS scale and polish appointment to deal with it.

Prevention Is Always Better than a Cure

Essentially, the best way to remove plaque and keep tartar at bay is to brush on a twice-daily basis with fluoride toothpaste, maintain regular flossing, use interproximal brushes, and use an effective mouthwash. Do this and dental plaque will never take hold and cause damage.

Back this up with a periodic professional clean (around every six months) and you’ll go a long way to avoiding the dental issues that excess plaque and tartar bring. It’s an ongoing battle as you’ll never fully remove all the plaque from your teeth, but with proper care, you should be able to spare yourself from the often unpleasant process of tartar removal by your family dentist.


Oral health statistics in the UK – Retrieved from:



Gavin Crawley is a writer with over a decade of commercial content creation experience behind him.

Located in Colchester in the UK with his wife and young daughter, he has a passion for his craft and

loves nothing more than building long-term relationships with his clients.