What are dental plaque and tartar?

Dental plaque and tartar are words that turn up all the time in ads for tooth care products like toothpaste, toothbrushes, or dental floss. But what are they? What is tartar? What is dental plaque? Why is it so important to eliminate them? What happens if you don’t get rid of them? Take a closer look at dental plaque and tartar with this article from CDH.

The inside skinny on tartar and dental plaque

  • Dental plaque is a deposit, or biofilm, that forms on your teeth, especially after eating, 
  • Tartar forms when that biofilm or dental plaque hardens, 
  • You can remove dental plaque with a toothbrush and dental floss, 
  • Removing tartar requires professional care using ultrasound equipment or manual curettes, 
  • Dental plaque and tartar can cause cavities and gingivitis and other kinds of gum disease.

What is dental plaque?

Dental plaque, or biofilm, is a soft deposit that builds up on your teeth, prosthetics, and orthodontic appliances. It contains microorganisms that can cause cavities and gum and periodontal infections.

Thin layers of plaque can be translucent and invisible to the naked eye. But as it ages, it thickens and can give your teeth a dull, matte look.

Plaque reveal agents can be used to make plaque visible – when you chew or swish them in your mouth, they turn the plaque bright colors.

What is tartar?

Tartar is a hard, usually rough mass that clings to your teeth. It is calcified dental plaque. Tartar can form on your teeth both above and below the gum line, as well as on prosthetic teeth and orthodontic appliances. 

Tartar is one of the key culprits behind the emergence, development, and recurrence of all types of gum inflammation and disease.

Why do you need to eliminate tartar and dental plaque?

It’s important to eliminate dental plaque and tartar because they don’t just look and smell bad. They can also cause long-term dental problems: 

  • cavities 
  • periodontitis, 
  • gum infections, and more.


What toothpaste should I be using to prevent dental plaque? 

Everyone’s mouth is different. Even though saliva can help keep dental plaque from forming, some people naturally produce huge amounts of it. 

You can remove some dental plaque by brushing and flossing regularly. Always use a soft-bristled toothbrush. We recommend talking about toothpaste with your dental hygienist to figure out what’s right for you: fluoride or not, etc.

Does tartar hurt?

It’s true that tartar is a major culprit behind gum irritation and can cause gingivitis, but it doesn’t hurt. Gingivitis is another stealthy, pain-free problem, so many of our patients wait too long to come in.

How can I remove dental plaque and tartar at home?

You can remove some dental plaque yourself by brushing three times a day with toothpaste and flossing. Some people also use a little baking soda with their toothpaste twice a week as a natural whitener. But you still need to have your teeth cleaned by a dental hygienist every year. 

You can’t get rid of tartar with a toothbrush. Tartar is calcified dental plaque and has to be removed by a dental professional using ultrasound devices and manual curettes.

How to get in touch with CHD Dental Hygiene Clinic?

Feel free to contact the CHD Dental Hygiene Clinic by phone, email, or WhatsApp. We are delighted to welcome you in our dental clinics in Geneva, Meyrin, Lausanne, and most recently Yverdon!