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Clinical Overview
Tartar (Calculus)

Clinical Overview


Reviewed by: Dr. Kristen Dority

Calculus is perhaps the more frequently used term for tartar and calcified dental plaque that is composed mainly of calcium phosphate mineral salts. Tartar (calculus) forms as a hard substance around the teeth and dental prostheses. Accumulations of tartar irritate gums and cause them to recede. Inflammation of the tissue may lead to the recession and infection of the bones in which teeth are imbedded and result in the loosening and loss of teeth. As symptoms may not become apparent until serious damage has occurred, periodic dental visits for the removal of tartar are recommended. Dental tartar, both above and below the gum line, occurs in the majority of adults worldwide. Incidences, however, are population specific and affected by oral hygiene habits, access to professional care, diet, age, ethnic origin, time since last dental cleaning, systemic disease, and the use of prescription medications. In populations that practice regular oral hygiene and have access to regular professional care, dental calculus or tartar above the gumline is restricted to tooth surfaces adjacent to the salivary ducts, while that below the gumline tends to be limited to those with periodontal disease. Tartar or calculus in low-hygiene populations tend to be more pervasive.

Last updated: May-03-07

 
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