Do You Know the Difference Between Plaque and Tartar?

plaque and tartarEveryone has heard of plaque and tartar and knows they’re the enemies of healthy teeth and gums. However, because most people don’t know much else beyond that, they tend to use the two terms interchangeably. At times, this has led to a less-than-clear understanding when our family dentists explain to our patients why certain treatments are necessary.

Plaque and Tartar Are the Same Thing in Different Forms


Plaque is a film of bacteria; it’s a byproduct of proteins and food remnants that remain on your teeth and gums for a prolonged period. Plaque is soft, sticky, and colorless. It also contains acid that erodes your enamel.

Plaque is easy to remove through daily brushing. However, some plaque can also remain behind if it makes its way into the hard-to-reach areas. This is when the problem goes from bad to worse.


After hanging out in your teeth unobstructed for an extended period, the plaque eventually calcifies and turns into tartar. Tartar is essentially plaque 2.0 because its hardened state makes it resistant to brushing and flossing.

Tartar buildup is essentially why virtually all dentists recommend an in-clinic scaling (basic cleaning) two to four times a year. This is also why our orthodontists recommend braces for misaligned teeth. Teeth that are crooked and out of position create nooks and crannies where plaque can enter and eventually form into tartar.

Of course, you can also reduce tartar buildup significantly by not taking shortcuts in your home oral care. This means brushing twice a day instead of once, or flossing every day instead of every other day.

We Eliminate Plaque AND Tartar

Hopefully, this explanation will help you understand why regular cleanings are so important. With this in mind, you can schedule a cleaning at Kenmore Dental today. Our dentists will perform a basic or deep cleaning, whichever is necessary to remove extensive plaque and tartar buildup.

Edited by Justin Vorhees

Scaling and Root Planing for Tartar Removal

Serving the dentistry needs of the Kenmore, Alderwood Manor, Bothell, Brier, Juanita, Lake Forest Park, Kirkland, Woodinville and the surrounding area for almost 50 years!