We have all heard these words before, but do you really understand what they mean and the impact they have on your health?

Plaque is constantly forming on teeth. It is a sticky, colorless film comprised of bacteria and sugars. It forms as the food we eat mixes with saliva and bacteria already present in the mouth. It can be removed through daily brushing and flossing.

Preventing plaque build-up is simple. Brush thoroughly twice a day, floss at least once a day and see your dentist for regular examinations and cleanings. Limiting high-sugar foods and starches can also reduce the amount of plaque; as does drinking water, which washes away the harmful bacteria.

Tartar forms when plaque is not removed. It is a hard, porous mineral that easily attracts stains and additional plaque. When formed above the gum line, tartar is easily seen. It detracts from the beauty of your smile and can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist.

Plaque and tartar both contribute to the formation of cavities and gum disease. Excessive tartar build-up around and below the gum line causes the gum tissue to pull away from the tooth, creating pockets where additional bacteria can become trapped and lead to infections. If the tartar is not removed and continues to worsen, the tooth may become loose and eventually fall out.

Excessive plaque and tartar is a sign that home oral health care is lacking. Properly brushing your teeth, flossing and visiting the dentist regularly can prevent many dental problems from ever starting.

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