Which Comes First – Plaque or Calculus?

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Which Comes First – Plaque or Calculus?

Which Comes First – Plaque or Calculus?

What is the difference between plaque and calculus?  Well, to understand this we first need to understand how both plaque and calculus are formed.  Our bodies have a natural existence of bacteria.  Bacteria in your mouth is constantly trying to form a home, called a biofilm, to grow bigger and stronger.  This formation starts immediately after brushing and even following a professional cleaning! This sticky, smelly, yellow, bacterial home we are referring to is actually plaque!

Plaque commonly forms at the gum line and in between your teeth.  These areas are the most common places that are missed while brushing, which allows the bacteria to multiply becoming more aggressive. In other words, the longer the plaque sits in your mouth, the worse the bacteria becomes. The bacteria will start to “get hungry” and produce acid as a by-product that will eat away your mouth.  Yes! Bacterial acid eats away your gums, teeth, and bone!  Gingivitis and cavities are caused by the bacteria that live in plaque and eat away your mouth.

This brings us to the importance of proper brushing and flossing! Flossing will remove plaque that the toothbrush cannot reach. Have you ever flossed and got a whiff of a bad smelling odor?  If so, you have experienced the pleasures of disrupting mature plaque and smelling the bacteria “poop” that is inside of the plaque.  YUCK! Technically this bacterial “poop” is the byproduct made when the bacteria eats the carbohydrates left on your teeth from your last meal. Are you motivated to brush and floss, yet?

When plaque is not removed frequently enough, the minerals from our saliva harden it on the teeth. This hardened substance is called calculus. What in the world is calculus? I thought it was a math subject!  In dentistry, calculus can be defined as the hard deposits on your teeth that have to be professionally cleaned off.  Calculus, or tartar, is made up of bacteria and also allows a resting place for MORE bacteria to form.  This accumulation of bacteria in plaque and calculus makes your gum health worsen quickly.  Once the calculus has formed, it must be cleaned off professionally.  If plaque and calculus are left on the teeth for long periods of time, gingivitis and more advanced forms of gum disease can start.  Moral of the story? BRUSH AND FLOSS that nasty plaque out!

-Becky Ironwing, RDH at Foley Dental Group