Plaque vs. Tartar what is the difference


Many people have confused about the difference between plaque and tartar. While some people think it is the same, there is a vital difference between them. Knowing the difference between the two also helps understand the importance of daily oral hygiene routine and routine dental checkups.

Before knowing about the significant difference between tartar and plaque, let's know in detail what a plague is and what tartar is.


Plaque: what is it?

Dental plaque is the soft and sticky film accumulated on your teeth and under the gums throughout the day. And do you know it consists of a lot of bacteria? When you eat something, especially carbohydrates or sugar, you get a meal, and the bacteria thrive on your teeth. After eating, acids are produced by these bacteria that erode your tooth enamel and cause tooth cavities.

This is why you need to maintain a good oral hygiene routine to prevent tooth decay and protect your smile from the bacteria in the plaque. To prevent plaque buildup, brush your teeth twice and floss at least once daily. Chewing sugar-free gums and drinking lots of water after meals and snacks help control plaque.


Know about tartar

So, now what's tartar? This is something that starts accumulating when you do not remove plaque. When plaque remains on teeth for a long time, it hardens into tartar and becomes very difficult to remove. It is possible to remove tartar only with the help of a dental professional. Tartar removal is one of the primary reasons why a routine visit to your dentist is essential every six months. The buildup of plaque that results in tartar can lead to many more dental issues than cavities. It can lead to tooth sensitivity, discoloration, periodontal diseases, and gum recession. 


Now let's know the key differences between plaque and tartar

Even if both tartar and plaque can lead to dental health issues, few differences exist between the two.

  • The process by which they build up is different.

Plaque develops on your teeth throughout the day after you eat and drink, especially after eating some sugary foods, carbohydrates, or beverages. Everyone has to deal with plaque, but when you adhere to a daily routine of brushing and flossing, you can easily remove those plaques on your teeth before they get hard and become tartar. The buildup of tartar occurs when accumulated plaque hardens.

  • Both differ in their appearance.

Plaque is a fuzzy feeling when you wipe your teeth with your tongue. It has no color, therefore, it is tough to see. But on the other hand, tartar gives a very rough feeling and appears yellow or brown. 

  • The process of removal is different.

While you can remove plaque from your teeth by brushing and flossing your teeth daily, tartar should be removed only by a dental professional.

  • Risk factors

A person's risk of getting plaque increases because of the following factors:

  • Irregularity in brushing and flossing
  • Genetics factors of tooth decay
  • Consumption of a diet rich in sugar or having much stress.
  • Smoking
  • Not going for regular dental visits
  • Using oral appliances like retainers or braces makes it very difficult to clean teeth.


  • A person's risk of getting tartar increases because of the following factors:
  • Not going for regular oral care visits to the dentist
  • Not brushing or flossing teeth regularly
  • Crooked teeth that make it difficult to clean in between



Plaque and tartar both can damage your teeth by causing cavities and also it will result in tooth loss due to gum problems. So make sure to visit your dental doctor who can help you in maintaining a healthy and beautiful smile free from plaque and tartar. If you have any further doubts about plaque and tartar and how to prevent them, then book an appointment with a good dentist. MyDentalPlan is one of the best platforms having several dentists with years of experience in dental care practice.




About the Author:

Suprithi Choudhary, M.Pharm (Pharmacology) Medical Content writer

Suprithi is a Pharma Professional working as a medical content writer and previously worked as a Research Scientist and Senior Research Analyst


  • C.M Academy
  • Attended the Panjab University- Chandigarh, Pharma post-graduate in Pharmacology

Special thanks to Dr Deepak Kulkarni, a dental surgeon with over 23 years of experience who proofread this blog. He graduated from the H.K.E's Dental College, Gulbarga, and has certifications in ACHS International Accreditation Education Plan; Advanced Rotary Endodontic - Restorative Continuum; and Leadership, Team Building and Customer Service Leadership from the Oscar Murphy International.

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