Tartar vs Plaque: What’s the Difference?

If you don’t take care of your teeth, you’ll be one of the more than three million people who get a cavity each year.

Plaque and tartar are the reason for mouth issues like gingivitis and cavities. While most people use these terms interchangeably, they aren’t the same thing.

Knowing how to distinguish tartar vs. plaque is crucial for the health of your teeth. When you understand these tooth problems, you’ll see why going to the dentist is so important.

Our guide goes over the differences between plaque and tartar and how a dentist can help keep them at bay.

What Is Plaque?

Plaque is the sticky layer that builds up on your teeth and gums throughout the day. This substance houses bacteria that lives in your mouth.

When you eat carbohydrates or sugar, you’re not the only one who gets a meal. The bacteria on your teeth do as well. The food and drinks you ingest feed this bacteria, which make acids that break your enamel down.

Symptoms of Plaque 

You’ll know if you aren’t getting rid of plaque if you see any of the following symptoms:

  • Your teeth will feel fuzzy.
  • Chronic smelly or bad breath
  • Swollen or sore gums
  • Bleeding gums

Managing Plaque 

Keeping up on your daily oral hygiene is key to stopping tooth decay and keeping plaque away.

Brushing at least two times a day and flossing once will do the trick to keep plaque from building up. After meals and snacks, drinking lots of water and chewing on sugar-free gum can keep plaque away too.

Professionals, like those at, can help. They will thoroughly clean your teeth and find plaque you may have missed.

What Is Tartar?

Plaque that isn’t removed from your teeth promptly will harden and turn into tartar. The plaque does this by trapping the minerals found in saliva, which calcifies on the teeth.

This dental problem is much more complex to get rid of than plaque. Tartar can trap more plaque on your teeth which causes even more tartar to form. This can turn into a vicious cycle on the health of your teeth.

Symptoms of Tartar 

If you are dealing with tartar, your symptoms will look different from plaque. You may see the following signs:

  • Rough surface or a tooth
  • Swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums when you brush

Managing Tartar 

The best line of defense at preventing tartar is to visit your dentist and keep up with your oral hygiene. If you do have tartar, you’ll need the expertise of a dentist to get rid of it, as regular brushing and flossing won’t cut it.

Knowing the Difference Between Tartar vs. Plaque Will Keep Your Mouth Healthy

If you neglect your teeth, the risks of tartar and plaque can become painful and costly. When you know the qualities of tartar vs. plaque, you’ll be able to spot their build-up so you can take care of them.

Are you looking to understand more about other the health of other parts of your body? If so, check out our other health blogs today!