Are Plaque and Tartar The Same Thing?

There are many misconceptions about oral health. One of the more common misconceptions is that plaque and tartar are the same things and that the terms can be used interchangeably. While this isn’t completely false, it is a bit misleading and something that your dentist in Boerne wants to clear up. After all, understanding what’s going on inside of your mouth is a crucial part of keeping it healthy. 

A Peek at Plaque

It makes sense for us to start by taking a look at plaque. Plaque is something that accumulates on everyone’s teeth each and every day. It’s unavoidable, it’s sticky, it’s packed full of bacteria, and it can cause a whole lot of trouble. You see, plaque forms as a result of foods we eat and latches on to the area around the gum line. The bacteria that make up this sticky substance then start to feed on food particles in the mouth. As a result, the bacteria release an acidic byproduct. This acid then attacks the tooth enamel, wearing away at this protective layer and leaving teeth at increased risk of cavities. If plaque is not removed every day, it will start to harden and turn into tartar. 

Tartar Troubles

Tartar is very similar to plaque but, essentially, is a more progressed version. Also known as calculus, tartar is a super hard substance that occurs when plaque is not properly removed. Additionally, while plaque is invisible, once it transforms into tartar it can appear as yellow or brown lumps. Another key difference between tartar and plaque is that while you can effectively remove plaque on your own, your dentist in Boerne is the only one that can remove tartar once it forms. Like plaque, tartar can increase the risk of cavities as well as other problems, including tooth discoloration, sensitivity, and gum disease. 

Preventing Plaque Problems

Since tartar occurs as a result of plaque buildup, it’s important to take a look at how we can prevent problems from plaque in the first place. The most effective way to remove plaque is to practice proper oral hygiene by brushing and flossing every day. Make sure to brush both morning and night to remove plaque that has built up overnight and throughout the day. Additionally, choosing what you eat can also help keep plaque away. Try to pick plaque-busting foods like cheese and crunchy vegetables and avoid sugary foods and drinks. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can help wash away bacteria, neutralize acids, and further protect teeth. 

Outside of brushing, flossing, and eating well, it’s also crucial that you see your dentist in Boerne twice a year. These checkups give your dental team the opportunity to monitor your oral health, catch problems early, and remove any tartar buildup before it can create trouble. 

If it’s time for you to see your dentist, we welcome you to call our Boerne dental office to schedule an appointment. 

Does Gum Disease Cause Dementia?

We know we talk about gum health and gum disease a lot, but we believe that we can’t share enough information about how maintaining healthy gums can not only protect your oral health but your overall health, too. Your dentist in Boerne knows that poor gum health can lead to gum disease, and gum disease can lead to problems throughout the body, including heart disease. Now, recent research from the National Institute on Aging suggests that gum disease may also cause Alzheimer’s. 

National Alzheimer’s Disease Month

Alzheimer’s Disease is a form of dementia that affects more than 5 million Americans, and every November we recognize National Alzheimer’s Disease Month in honor of these patients. Until recently, research regarding what causes Alzheimer’s has been limited, which can be frustrating to patients, families, and doctors alike. But thanks to this research, we may be closer to identifying a cause than ever before.  

Gum Disease & Bacteria

Our mouths contain hundreds of different types of bacteria. Some of these bacteria are good and others are bad. The bad bacteria are what concern your dentist in Boerne as well as Alzheimer’s researchers. One of these bad bacteria, known as Porphyromonas gingivalis, is at the forefront of the study conducted by the National Institute on Aging. This bacteria, which was found as the leading cause of gum disease in over 6,000 participants, may produce something called plaque of beta-amyloid proteins. Why does this matter? Plaque of beta-amyloid proteins is one of the key indicators of Alzheimer’s Disease. 

In yet another study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers looked at brain tissue from both patients with Alzheimer’s and patients without. What did they find? Interestingly, the brain tissue from dementia patients contained gum disease bacteria, while brain tissue from non-dementia patients did not. 

Even though these studies seem promising and may bring us closer to finding a cause and a cure for Alzheimer’s, we need to note that additional research is still needed. 

Protect Your Gums

Whether or not gum disease causes Alzheimer’s or not, it’s still important to protect your gums against disease. Untreated gum disease can lead to tooth loss or bad breath, and the infection can enter the bloodstream and begin to affect other areas of the body, including the heart and perhaps the brain. The best ways to protect your gums include:

  • Brushing and flossing every day
  • Avoiding tobacco
  • Seeing your dentist in Boerne twice a year

Bi-annual visits to your dentist help remove plaque buildup in your mouth that at-home brushing alone can’t touch. This further protects your teeth against cavities and your gums against disease. If it’s been longer than six months since you’ve seen a dentist, schedule an appointment today.