Tartar build-up is the result of an accumulation of plaque that calcifies, becoming a hard substance that makes it difficult to brush and floss like you should. This can lead to cavities, tooth decay, and even gum disease. Once the calcification occurs, which can happen in a matter of days, it is very difficult to reduce that tartar build-up; a dentist must manually remove it. Therefore, it is best to know how to avoid tartar build-up in the first place.
Proper Oral Care Prevents Tartar Build-Up
First and foremost, make sure you are taking proper care of your teeth and gums. Thoroughly brush your teeth at least twice a day for at least two minutes each time, being sure to get hard to reach places like behind your teeth and your rear molars. Brushing your teeth for less than two minutes won’t remove as much of the plaque, allowing tartar to build up. Electronic toothbrushes with the ADA seal of acceptance tend to remove more plaque than regular toothbrushes. It is also important to floss every day, as brushing your teeth alone will not remove the plaque that builds up between your teeth. Pick a tartar-control toothpaste with fluoride, which can reduce tartar build-up by preventing plaque from hardening; plus, the fluoride can help repair enamel. Finally, rinse every day with an antiseptic mouthwash; this will kill the plaque-causing bacteria in your mouth.
How to Prevent Tartar: Foods that Make a Difference
What you eat has a major impact on the amount of plaque and tartar that builds up in your mouth. The bacteria in your mouth feed on starchy and sugary foods, so limiting these foods prevents these bacteria from thriving and producing the harmful acids that cause plaque. When you do eat these sorts of foods, make sure you keep in mind how often you do so and be sure to brush your teeth afterwards. This will remove the leftover food particles and plaque.
Believe it or not, there are some foods that actually reduce plaque formation and therefore prevent tartar build-up. Foods/beverages high in polyphenols inhibit bacteria’s ability to produce the acids that harm enamel and cause plaque. Some examples of polyphenol-rich foods and drinks are dark chocolate, star anise, cloves, flaxseed meal, red wine, cranberry juice, and green tea.
When considering how to prevent tartar build-up, look towards olive oil as well. Olive oil can cover the teeth in a fatty film, creating a protective coating that prevents plaque from forming and adhering to teeth.
In addition, gum or candy sweetened with xylitol can reduce tartar build-up before it occurs. Xylitol is a sugar alternative on which the bacteria in your mouth cannot feed, so they starve. This prevents plaque formation, tartar build-up, cavities, and tooth decay.
Behaviors to Avoid to Prevent Tartar Build-Up
Smoking: The harmful chemicals in tobacco products and cigarette smoke promote plaque formation, which can lead to an increased amount of tartar build-up. Increasing the number of times you brush per day may or may not help, but the best way to avoid tartar build-up as a smoker is to quit smoking entirely.
Excessive Alcohol Use: Large amounts of alcohol in short periods of time also encourage bacteria to produce plaque. Alcohol, like soda, contains sugars that feed bacteria and damage enamel. When drinking excessively, the enamel has no time to repair itself, the plaque is not removed, and the bacteria may produce more plaque, leading to tartar build-up.
How to Reduce Tartar Build-Up: Get the Professionals Involved
Even if you take excellent care of your teeth and follow all of the above recommendations, there still may be small amounts of tartar build-up. If you skip dental cleanings, this tartar can build up to a point that may cause other oral health issues. Going to the dentist twice a year for exams and cleanings will help prevent tartar build-up from getting to dangerous levels.