What Is Plaque and Tartar?

A look at these two dental terms and their effect on your gum health.

Patients sometimes tell us that they don’t fully understand some of the terminologies used when it comes to dental health. As with most professions, we all, perhaps, sometimes slip into terms that we know and understand well, but easily forget that our patients may not.

We will try to take a look at some of these terminologies in our blog posts, and, today, we start with a couple of important terms that are sometimes confused, but can actually cause major problems to a patient’s oral health.


Plaque is a sticky white substance that forms in the mouth. In fact, it is a collection of bacteria that accumulate especially when the mouth is dry. There are two reasons for this; firstly a moist mouth will simply wash away much of the plaque, but also also, a dry mouth is an ideal environment for its production. As well as the unpleasant sensation of a sticky mouth, plaque will also attach itself to the teeth and along the gum line. This is a problem, if not removed, and significantly increases the likelihood of gum disease.


Whilst plaque can be removed effectively through regular brushing and interdental cleaning, the same can not be said for tartar. Tartar is actually a hardened form of plaque that, once attached to teeth and gums is virtually impossible to remove through better home oral health care alone. Even those who do clean and floss their teeth, or use an interdental brush, are almost certain to have at least a small amount of tartar and those whose cleaning regimen is not so good are likely to have more advanced tartar.

Without having the tartar removed professionally, gum disease may well follow. At best, this can cause sore and bleeding gums, but, in a more advanced stage called periodontitis, may eventually lead to tooth loss. At the Cygnet Dental Practice of Wickford, we recommend that all patients see our hygienist on a regular basis, usually every six months. Using special tools, they will clean your teeth, removing the tartar and helping you to keep your mouth healthy and free of gum disease.

If you have not seen a hygienist recently, or perhaps even ever at all, now is the time to act. By visiting the dental hygienist at our dental clinic in Wickford, and conveniently situated for patients from Downham and Shotgate, we can remove the tartar from your teeth and advise on future oral health care to keep your mouth healthy and fresh for many years to come.

Call us today on 01268 733078.