Solving the Calculus Removal Mystery

A friendly smile is like a warm, sunny day in that you never hear anyone complain about seeing one. But there are a plethora of reasons why people hide their smiles: crooked or missing teeth, gum disease, or plaque and calculus buildup. While each condition requires its own specific treatment, calculus removal is especially important for good oral health.

Calculus Crash Course

Calculus, more commonly known as tartar, is the result of plaque buildup that hardens (calcifies) on the teeth. Once you brush your teeth, plaque begins to form on your clean teeth within 24 hours, according to the Mayo Clinic. Within two to three days, the plaque begins the calcification process, morphing into calculus.

Tartar is a hardened surface and provides more surface area for plaque to adhere. More plaque can mean more cavities and even periodontal disease, so removing calculus is an important step to long-term oral health.

Another downfall of tartar is its ability to absorb stains easily given its porous qualities. Coffee or tea drinkers and smokers are more susceptible to stained teeth so preventing tartar buildup on teeth is an even bigger priority for those folks.

Calculus Types

There are two types of calculus, notes the University of Kentucky. Supragingival forms above the gumline. It's yellow or tan and is visible on a tooth's surface. Subgingival forms below the gumline in the sulcus (crevice) between the teeth and the gumline. It typically isn't visible with the naked eye unless gum recession has already taken place. Subgingival is typically brown or black in color.

Calculus Removal Process

Once calculus collects on your teeth in large quantities, it needs to be removed via a process known as debridement. A dental hygienist will use either hand-held instruments or an ultrasonic device to remove the tartar. The ultrasonic device incorporates a combination of high-frequency vibrations with water to extricate the tartar. After the debridement procedure, your dentist will schedule you for a follow-up visit at which time he or she will determine if further treatment is necessary. That could come in the form of scaling and root planning or in more severe cases of calculus accumulation - gum surgery may be needed.

Why It's Crucial to Remove

Calculus removal is crucial to prevent several serious health issues. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), calculus buildup can cause gums to swell and bleed. This condition is known as gingivitis; the initial stage of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease has also been linked to an increased risk of coronary artery disease and strokes. Bacteria from plaque and tartar can also find its way into the bloodstream, which can result in such conditions like endocarditis, when blood clots and the inner lining of the heart becoming infected.

There are so many ailments that can befall the mouth. But the common denominator in preventing unnecessary trips to your dentist is building a solid foundation of oral care. Start with brushing at least twice a day combined with daily flossing. Using a toothpaste like Colgate® Total will help prevent tartar buildup, remove stains and negate the need for a calculus removal procedure. And don't forget regular dental visits. If you think you might have a tartar problem, who better to consult with than your dentist and dental hygienist?

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Common Conditions During ADULTHOOD

As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.