Tartar or dental calculus is a form of plaque which as hardened over time. Tartar is made up of different minerals in the saliva from plaque formation. Tartar usually forms over a long period of time. A dental tartar provides the ideal medium for bacterial growth because of its rough surface which is easier for bacteria to accumulate and form more tartar.
The word calculus came from the Greek word “calcis” which means stone. Calcis became associated with dental tartar because during ancient times, people would notice stone-like growth or formation on the teeth of the deceased. The word tartar also originates from the Greeks, which would describe a white encrustation inside cask, similar to the dental tartar.
Plaques in the tooth can cause irritation and inflammation of the gums which is known as gingivitis. Untreated gingivitis may lead to a severe form known as periodontitis which is the inflammation of the surrounding tissue inside the gums. If left unchecked, tooth may gradually loosen and eventually the tooth will fall off from the gums. Plaques that remain in the mouth for a period of time will eventually calcify and becomes calculus.
Calculus is detrimental to oral health because it serves as a possible location for more bacteria accumulation, hence more bacteria and plaque. Tartar formation is divide into two categories; the supra-gingival which forms along the gum-line and sub-gingival which forms along the small gaps of the tooth and the gingiva.
Calculus formation can result to a variety of dental problems such as bad breath due to accumulation of bacteria which synthesizes a variety of different substances and chemical known to give off odor, and dying bacteria may also release sulphur containing bacteria which is known to be malodorous.
Supra-gingival tartar is located above the gum-line; hence bacteria that thrive in the supra-gingival tartar are oxygen dependent bacteria and fungi. Sub-gingival tartar is located below the gum-line and contains oxygen independent bacteria. Oxygen independent bacteria are more harmful compared to the oxygen independent bacteria due to more harmful by products due to fermentation. Such by-products can damage the gingiva and cause periodontitis. Sub-gingival bacteria are also linked to a variety of heart problems such as heart disease and kidney problems. This is due to bacterial entry of the bacteria when the gums have become loose. The bacteria may reach the heart and colonizes the heart causing enlargement and other heart problems. The bacteria may also reach the kidneys and destroy the organ.
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