Bacteria naturally live on teeth and gums, which result in the formation of plaque. This material can be removed with regular oral hygiene habits such as when you brush your teeth or floss. Plaque that is not removed sufficiently from the teeth and gums can harden, becoming tartar. Tartar cannot be removed with brushing alone – it must be removed by your dentist.
Tartar on the gums and teeth can cause gum inflammation, swelling and bleeding. This is essentially known as gum disease or gingivitis. Gingivitis, the mild form of gum disease, can be reversed if treated early. If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress to the more severe form of gum disease known as periodontitis, which involves the irreversible destruction and shrinking of the gums and bones, resulting in the loss of teeth.