General Dentistry |2 min read

Dental 101: What are Plaque, Tartar, Gingivitis and Periodontitis?

When it comes to competent dental care, you’re no doubt familiar with the recommendations to

  • brush your teeth twice a day,
  • floss daily between your teeth,
  • and visit your dentist every six months for a professional cleaning and thorough check-up.

Educate Yourself—Protect Yourself

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Unfortunately, a surprising number of people don’t follow these rather basic guidelines. Understanding what dental foes are, why they develop, and how you can prevent them is a pivotal step in motivating healthy smiles.

Dental Enemies 101

  1. Plaque—A clear, sticky film/coating forming on teeth 24 hours a day. Plaque feeds on the sugars and starches introduced by your choice of food and beverages—producing harmful acid. The sticky plaque keeps this acid against the teeth, wearing away your tooth enamel. White spots that form on a tooth can be an early sign of decay.
  2. Tartar—Plaque that has hardened on your teeth. Also known as calculus, tartar develops when plaque is allowed to build up without being properly removed. Tartar gives plaque more surface area on which to grow and a much stickier surface to adhere. This can lead to more serious conditions, such as cavities and gum disease. Tartar can develop at and even underneath the gum-line, resulting in gum irritation. The most common sign of tartar is a yellow/brownish color developing on your teeth and gums. Once tartar has formed, only your dental professional has the tools and expertise to remove it properly.
  3. Cavities—These occur when the protective enamel coating on part of your tooth is damaged (losing its minerals) and a little hole develops. Other names for cavities are dental caries and tooth decay—cavity is really when a tooth is rotting, weakening, and being destroyed. Repeated exposure to acid attacks, along with inadequate oral hygiene can result in cavities developing over time. Once a cavity has formed, this permanent damage can only be repaired by a filling from your dentist.
  4. Gingivitis & Periodontitis—Gingivitis is an early form of gum disease that results in gums that can be red, swollen, irritated, and bleed easily. If not treated the disease can progress into periodontitis—a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and bone that supports the tooth, which can lead to tooth-loss. Your dental professional has effective options available to help address these issues.

A lasting healthy smile can be achieved by working together with your skilled dental professional. Book your appointment today with Dr. Griffin, your family dentist in Irmo.

Pass it on: Share this information with those who you think might need to brush up on their dental IQ.

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