What is the Difference Between Plaque and Tartar?

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When our Federal Way dentistry clinic discusses the detrimental build-up that needs to be cleaned from your teeth, the two words you’re going to hear a lot are “plaque” and “tartar”. Some people make the mistake of thinking that these are interchangeable terms. However, though they are quite similar, there is an important distinction to be made between plaque and tartar that has a big impact on how you should be addressing them.

Plaque is a bacterial film that collects throughout your mouth. This is the substance that you are clearing away with your toothbrush and floss. Tartar, also known as calculus, is what happens when you fail to clear this plaque away. This is when the plaque has hardened into a resilient shell on the surface of your tooth. At this point, it can no longer be cleared away with normal brushing; you will need to have your dentist remove it.

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