Patients often confuse plaque and tartar and how they are related to each other. Plaque is a bacterial by-product of acid and saliva; it manifests itself as a sticky film that is constantly forming on the surfaces of your teeth. Plaque buildup along the gumline, between teeth, and in hard-to-reach areas is a primary factor in gum disease. Because plaque is constantly forming on teeth, even after brushing, it is vital that you brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily.
Plaque that is not removed through regular brushing and flossing can harden into unsightly tartar (also called calculus). Tartar is a crusty deposit that can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist. To minimize tartar formation, be sure that you brush your teeth with a tartar-prevention toothpaste at least twice a day, floss every day, and have your teeth professionally cleaned on a schedule recommended by your dentist.
Individuals vary greatly in their susceptibility to plaque and tartar. For many of us, these deposits build up faster as we age. Fighting plaque and tartar is a life-long component of oral care.