Tarter (Calculus)

Overview

Calculus, or tartar, as it is more commonly termed, is the hard, barnacle-like buildup that forms on our teeth once soft plaque has had time to take up enough minerals from saliva to harden.

 What’s the Problem?

Calculus creates an ideal environment for more bacteria to accumulate, due to its rough and irregular surface. If not professionally removed, chunks of tarter (calculus) continue to get larger, forming more areas for the soft, gooey biofilm of plaque to live and thrive, releasing their toxins onto and into the soft tissue.

calculus removal and the lower picture is after calculus removal. Note the red gums between the teeth where the calculus gives the live bacteria a place to 'live', inflaming the underlying gum tissue.

This is a common area to find Tarter or Calculus. The upper picture is before calculus removal and the lower picture is after calculus removal. Note the red gums between the teeth where the calculus gives the live bacteria a place to ‘live’, inflaming the underlying gum tissue.

Anywhere the calculus forms causes the adjacent soft tooth tissue to be inflamed (red, swollen, bleeds easily) and become damaged (see Gum Disease/Periodontal Disease). Calculus cannot be effectively and thoroughly removed without a professional cleaning (see Gum Disease/Periodontal Disease: Treatment: Scaling and Root Planing and Lasers in Dentistry).

Although there are toothpastes that can prohibit or slow formation of calculus, they do not remove calculus that has already formed. In order for the calculus to be completely removed, regular dental visits are required. Complete removal of calculus from your teeth also removes areas where plaque is living, allowing adjacent soft tissue to heal, reducing the progression of gum disease.