It’s not uncommon to hear your pediatric dentist in Long Island toss around the words ‘plaque’ and ‘tartar’ almost interchangeably. In fact, we’ve realized that this could cause some confusion, and as always, we want to help our patients and parents of our patients understand the difference between the two. Join us as we take a look at what exactly plaque and tartar are and how they can affect your little one’s oral health.
What is Plaque?
When trying to remember the difference between plaque and tartar, it may help to think of the two Ps. Plaque is the primary, or first, thing that can affect your child’s teeth. Plaque is a sticky film that’s basically made up of millions and millions of bacteria. It naturally builds up on teeth throughout each day, and as we eat, the plaque bacteria are also eating. As a byproduct of this feeding, the bacteria release acids. These acids can erode tooth enamel, weaken teeth, and make it easier for cavities to form. However, when we effectively remove plaque through brushing, we can help reduce the number of bacteria and lower the risk of decay and the need for fillings from your Long Island pediatric dentist.
What is Tartar?
So what happens when plaque remains on the teeth for too long? That’s where tartar comes into play. When plaque isn’t effectively removed it will harden into tartar. Now, while plaque can be cleaned away through at-home brushing, tartar is a different story. Once plaque hardens into tartar it can’t be removed through regular brushing. Your pediatric dentist in Long Island will need to intervene to thoroughly remove tartar buildup. If tartar is not removed, it can increase the risk of cavities, cause tooth discoloration or tooth sensitivity, and can even lead to gum disease (yes, kids can get gum disease!).
How to Avoid Plaque and Tartar Buildup
Avoiding plaque buildup and, in turn, tartar isn’t difficult, but it does require good oral hygiene habits. Make sure your child is brushing her teeth each morning and before bed every night for two minutes each time. Additionally, it’s important to remove plaque that may have accumulated in between teeth by flossing once a day. In between brushings, your child should drink plenty of water to help neutralize and rinse away acids, and also remove bacteria. If allowed, she can also chew sugarless gum after meals and snacks. And as always, if she can avoid sugary sweets and drinks, it will make for both a happier, healthier smile and a happier pediatric dentist.
The truth is, everyone’s teeth will accumulate some plaque and some tartar. The important thing to remember is that this buildup needs to be removed through both brushing and flossing properly at home and seeing your pediatric dentist regularly. That’s why we always recommend that our patients visit us every six months for a checkup and thorough cleaning to remove any tartar that may have formed since their last appointment.
If it’s been longer than six months since your child’s last dental appointment, we welcome you to call and schedule a checkup today. We can’t wait to see you!