Plaque is a result of leftover food on your teeth. Bacteria go to work metabolizing the nutrients in the food, leaving a scaly substance on the enamel. Over time, the plaque hardens and becomes tartar, which is more difficult for dentists to remove. The techniques used to remove plaque and tartar depends on the thickness of the buildup, your overall oral health and whether or not you have any cavities or gum disease.
Brushing and Flossing
Brushing and flossing are your first lines of defense against plaque. You can get most of it off at home by brushing twice per day for two minutes each time. Flossing removes stuck particles left between your teeth. Your dentist may recommend an ultrasonic toothbrush. These brushes have spinning heads that move at high rates of speed to remove more of the plaque.
During your checkup with the dentist, the dental care professionals will use small dental tools to scrape off the tartar from your teeth. These small tools are pointed at one end. Some are curved to reach around the curved surfaces of your teeth. As the dentist works, you may hear a soft scraping or grinding sound as the metal tool meets the hardened tartar. If the tartar is close to the gum tissue, you might notice some sensitivity or bleeding in your mouth.
If you skip a visit to the dentist or do not brush your teeth often enough, you may develop tartar that extends below the surface of your gums. This tartar must be removed because it could cause an infection of your tooth or the soft tissues in your mouth. The process of removing this deep tartar is called root scaling. Small tools are used to remove the tartar. You may be given a topical numbing medication to relieve any discomfort that this specialized dental cleaning technique may cause.