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  • Writer's pictureDr. Pearl E. Whites

Why Do I Get Tartar if I Brush and Floss like a Boss?

Updated: Apr 28

Several of our patients complain that they brush faithfully, floss after restaurant meals with friends, waterpik, and use mouthwash but still collect tartar! Why!?

Origins of Tartar
Plaque and tartar before and after removed by hygienist
Patient case at Central Point Family Dentistry

Did you know that tartar mainly comes from your saliva?! Yup, the calcium content in your saliva actually is the main source that form these barnacles in your mouth. Sugarary food and carbohydrates also induce more tartar formation much faster too. Tartar is actually the apartment complex for bacteria. The bacteria move in when tartar starts to collect on your teeth and just like Oregon law, it’s really challenging to kick out squatters once they take up residence without the proper authorities: in this case your dental hygienist. The more effective you brush the more you remove plaque and tartar; however, once tartar sticks the best way to remove it is a professional dental cleaning.

Science Facts You Need to First Know
  • Plaque forms 0-2 days after ineffective brushing

  • Soft plaque turns into hardened tartar, usually after 12 days of sitting on your teeth.

  • Gingivitis is a gum disease manifest with bleeding gums. If gums ever bleed, you have gingivitis! After 21 days of gingivitis this can lead to periodontitis, which is permanent destruction of gums and bone that you cannot reverse if progressed enough. This destruction normally occurs after 3 months and beyond.

  • Those numbers mean something whenever you hear the dentist or hygienist call out after jabbing your gums with the modern-day torture device, “3,2,2,3,2…” Dentists measure everything in millimeters. 1-3mm are healthy and your toothbrush can reach that deep. Anything above 3mm never gets cleaned out unless you go to the dentist office for a cleaning. The hygienist can effectively clean 1-5mm. Anything over 5mm is permanent destruction and once you start getting 7mm+ depths we need to have a conversation about pulling teeth!

How Often Do I Really Need to Come in for a Dental Cleaning?

Insurance companies have somehow engrained in all our minds that we are supposed to have dental cleanings every 6 months because that’s usually what they’ll pay for.

Knowing periodontitis can cause destruction starting in 3 months, the ideal would be to clean your teeth every 3 months too; however, nobody wants to get their colon checked every year and rarely do people want to come in every 3 months for a dental cleaning either.

Everyone is individual how frequent you need cleanings. At Central Point Family Dentistry we cannot truly determine how frequent you need a cleaning until your second cleaning. That second cleaning helps us see how rapid you collect tartar. These cleanings can range anywhere between every 3-6 months but rarely do patients need cleanings beyond 6 months only. Understanding that gums and bone can get destroyed in 3 months, why would you not want a cleaning at least every 6 months?

dark tartar before and after dental hygiene cleaning
Random Fact of the Day

what do math and tartar have in common with each other? Did you know tartar in dental terminology is actually called “calculus?” Yup, now you have two forms of calculus that nobody likes.

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