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What exactly is tartar, and do I need a toothpaste to control it?

What exactly is tartar, and do I need a toothpaste to control it?

Tartar is a hard, yellowish deposit that can form around gums, causing them to get puffy and irritated. It doesn't happen out of the blue. When food residue mixes with the bacteria that are normally in your mouth, it creates a colorless film called plaque. If you whisk away that film by brushing and flossing, you're in the clear. But if you don't get it all, it eventually hardens into tartar, and your dentist will have to remove it during your cleaning.

How long it takes plaque to progress to tartar varies from person to person. But people who have gum disease tend to accumulate tartar quickly and may benefit from using one of the many tartar-control toothpastes that are sold over-the-counter. These pastes contain a substance called sodium pyrophosphate, which helps dissolve plaque.

But while they slow down tartar buildup, they don't eliminate it -- so regular trips to the dentist (and the usual brushing and flossing) are still super-important.



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