Blog - Shoreline Periodontics & Dental Implants

Key Differences Between Plaque and Tartar


Plaque and tartar – is there a difference? Some people confuse it as the same, because it kind of is. Using “kind of” here is obviously general, but if you break it down, left and build up plaque turns into tartar.

To understand fully, here is a quick breakdown of the difference between plaque vs tartar.


Everyone deals with plaque. Plaque is a clear, sticky substance that forms on teeth like a film. Plaque naturally builds up after eating, drinking, and saliva, but it contains harmful bacteria. Plaque tends to stick around the gum line, and if left on teeth, can cause gum disease. When saliva and food debris combine, specifically sugars found in food, the bacteria formed releases acid. This acid can cause the gum and teeth to become damaged.

Plaque is essential to diminish as best as possible so you do not cause your gums to become irritated and diseased, or tooth decay and cavities.


Tartar, like plaque builds up on the tooth surface and also settles into the space between the teeth. It is not uncommon for tartar to build up as you age, because plaque is inevitable. Tartar is plaque that is left on the teeth, that mineralizes over time. Tartar becomes yellowed, and aged looking as it continues to sit untouched.

To stop the process of plaque and tartar building up, it is imperative to brush and floss your teeth. Brushing and flossing is constantly recommended, but it stops the process of these occurrences and keeps the gums and teeth as healthy as they can be.

If you believe you are suffering from an accumulation of plaque or tartar, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist. During this appointment, your dentist will be able to do a thorough cleaning of your teeth, and discuss any methods you should be taking to ensure optimal oral health.

If you need extra care for your teeth, set up routine cleanings with your dentist office. At this time, they will use items like a water pick, which will floss your teeth with pressure and will use a strong electric toothbrush to ensure proper cleanliness.