Caring for Fulham since 2009

750a Fulham Road, Fulham,
London SW6 5SH

257 New Kings Road, Fulham,
London SW6 4RB

750a Fulham Road, Fulham, London SW6 5SH
257 New Kings Road, Fulham, London, SW6 4RB

Plaque vs Tartar: The differences and solutions

The buildup of plaque or tartar in your mouth can have serious consequences for your long-term dental health. They can both lead to gum disease and will undermine the health of your teeth and gums more generally. To ensure you keep your teeth and gums healthy, we explain the differences between plaque and tartar below, and illustrate how Pure Smiles can help you treat each condition.

Formation and differences between plaque and tartar 

Plaque is a collection of bacteria that lives in your mouth. The bacteria stick together and can survive on your gums, tongue, teeth, and practically any other surface in your mouth. Research suggests that as many as 700 species of organisms live on and around your teeth, some of which are harmful. When they combine, they create what is known as a biofilm, which essentially strengthens the bacteria and makes it more difficult to remove. So when you look in the mirror and see a yellowish film between your teeth, you’re looking at plaque. 

If you don’t take action to remove plaque from your teeth, it hardens and becomes tartar (or calculus). Tartar is what causes your teeth to look discoloured, and it traps plaque within the gaps between teeth and in parts of your gums. When left untreated, tartar significantly increases the risk of developing conditions like periodontitis or gingivitis - also known as gum disease. While responsible dental hygiene like regular brushing, flossing, and mouth washing should prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar, you need to take action if you have an issue, as we explain below.

How to treat plaque and tartar 

If you notice plaque formation in your mouth, you can often remove it yourself. You need to be extra thorough with brushing and flossing, and using an antibacterial mouthwash can help kill off any plaque that your brushing and flossing might miss. Ultimately, if you brush your teeth twice a day, floss regularly, and use mouthwash, you should be able to keep on top of plaque. But tartar is a different story. 

When tartar forms in and around your teeth, you will need to visit a dentist. This is because tartar is hard, and if you try and pull it out yourself, you’re likely to damage your teeth. A dentist will professionally clean your teeth, removing tartar in the process. They may even perform scaling and root planning, which will remove all plaque and tartar and help prevent buildup in the future. 

Signs that you might have plaque/tartar 

The easiest way to determine if you have a plaque buildup in your mouth is by looking in the mirror. If you notice white or yellow goo, it’s a sign that plaque is present. Other signs include: 

  • Slimy teeth 

  • Chronic bad breath 

  • Bleeding or painful gums 

As for tartar, you can usually feel rough, hard patches on your teeth. You may also see discoloured spots on some of your teeth, which don’t go away after brushing. If you notice tartar, it’s super important to book an appointment with your dentist to stop the condition from becoming worse. 

How Pure Smiles can help you 

At Pure Smiles, we offer professional and friendly dental care to all clients. If you think you have a buildup of tartar in your mouth, you can schedule an appointment by calling us on 0203 613 3330. Alternatively, if you’re struggling with maintaining your teeth and are looking for some advice on reducing the buildup of plaque, consider scheduling an appointment with one of our hygienists, who will help you improve your daily dental rotuine. 

speak to us0203 613 4525

Dental treatment finder

Read our reviews