You have probably encountered these words many times before and cannot tell the difference. First things first, plaque and tartar are the precursors of gum disease, which is the most common dental disease in the world.
The gums are often neglected because all the focus is usually pointed on your pearly whites.
To understand what plaque is, you have to know how it is formed. Plaque is formed when three things are allowed to come together: sugar, bacteria and saliva.
Food breaks down in sugars and this can pack, insert and accumulate in spaces and pits on the teeth. Since saliva and the normal flora of the mouth is something you cannot control, allowing it to combine with accumulated sugars in the mouth will definitely form plaque.
It is the soft, sticky white material that wraps around the teeth. It packs on the surface of the teeth, in between spaces and in gum pockets.
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Now if plaque is allowed to accumulate and pack, it will calcify and tartar is formed. Unlike plaque, tartar is hard to remove and simple brushing can no longer deal with it. It is tough and it can irritate the gum tissues and the bone.
Both plaque and tartar can lead to gum disease. If you let things progress negatively, plaque and tartar can disrupt the normal health of your gums and soon enough you will observe the following symptoms: bleeding, redness, pain, pus and swelling.
In more advanced cases, gum disease could lead to bone loss, tooth mobility and loss of tooth/teeth. Now you know, you have to take plaque and tartar seriously.