Is tartar normal on teeth?

Tartar forms when plaque is allowed to remain on the teeth, where it hardens into a calcified material that coats the teeth and invades the gums. While plaque can be removed with thorough, effective brushing and flossing, some plaque can easily remain in hard-to-reach areas; within around 48 hours, this residual plaque begins to calcify and turn into tartar. Because tartar is rigid, rough, and porous, it can attract additional bacteria and interfere with effective brushing and flossing, adding to the destructive effects it already has on the teeth and gums and increasing the likelihood of gum disease and tooth decay. While tartar is destructive, it is also very common; nearly two-thirds of all adults have dental tartar on and around their teeth and gums, often in spite of their best efforts, and some amount of dental tartar is quite normal. Even though it’s normal, tartar shouldn’t be ignored. Your dental hygienist will use professional instruments called dental scalers at your next routine cleaning, carefully scraping tartar away from the gums and teeth and reducing the risk of gum disease.

While everyone has some amount of plaque on their teeth, certain people face a higher risk of plaque formation than others. If you consume a diet high in processed starches and sugars, you’re more likely to have a proliferation of plaque, though all diets contribute to plaque formation in some part. These sugars might appear in more traditional forms like cookies or cakes, or they might masquerade as starches like bread, pasta, or potatoes. People with dry mouths are more likely to develop tartar, and the condition of dry mouth can arise because of dehydration or as a side effect of some medical conditions or medications. Smokers and people who use tobacco are also more inclined to develop tartar, in light of the chemical imbalances and dry mouth that come with such habits.

Of course, brushing and flossing the teeth is the best way to limit tartar formation and manage plaque that is allowed to develop. Dentists recommend using an electric toothbrush to most effectively address plaque and tartar, replacing the bristles quarterly and using the devices with fluoride toothpaste in two-minute episodes. This home hygiene routine should be supplemented with regular visits to the dentist, at least every six months, for professional cleanings and checkups. At your dental visit, your dental hygienist will remove accumulated tartar as part of your routine cleaning. If the buildup of plaque and tartar is excessive, your dentist might before more in-depth treatments like debridement, or they may refer you to a dental specialist, like a periodontist, for more focused treatment of specific concerns and conditions. If necessary, they may recommend that you return for regular checkups more frequently so that whatever condition is present can be consistently monitored.

While some amount of tartar on the teeth is considered normal, sometimes tartar deposits are dense enough to interfere with a dentist’s ability to properly evaluate their oral health. Ultrasonic instruments can be used in conjunction with hand tools to fracture larger areas of tartar and remove it so that the teeth and gums can be evaluated properly. When tartar deposits are less significant, hand tools like dental scalers are often sufficient for thorough, comprehensive tartar removal.

Natural breakdown of tartar