In dentistry, calculus relates to gum disease and tooth loss. The word calculus is derived from Latin meaning pebble or little stone. Calculus is a combination of saliva, minerals, oral debris, and dental plaque that hardens and forms calcified deposits that cannot be brushed off.
The only source of oral debris is food. Saliva is a disinfectant and a protective element that controls some, but not all of the bacteria that form in your mouth. The plaque on your teeth contains bacteria, which produces chemicals that can cause gum tissue to be infected and to swell, which can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and bone loss, which can lead to tooth loss.
Calculus’ rough surface attracts more food debris, causing more calculus formation and buildup, which is a hard, crusty residue that forms on teeth at the gum line and ranges in color from yellow to brown.
Calculus is plaque that has mineralized, forming a tough, crusty deposit that can only be removed by your dentist, periodontist, or hygienist. The deposits form above and below the gum line and significantly contribute to periodontal (gum) disease because a layer of non-mineralized plaque always covers it. The calculus keeps the plaque close to the gum tissue, making it more difficult to remove the plaque bacteria.
Its rough surface provides a perfect environment for bacterial growth that threatens the health of your gums. If untreated, it harbors bacteria, which produces toxins that attack the supporting tissue (ligaments that attach the gums, teeth, and bone) under the teeth.
Brushing and flossing are supposed to remove the plaque, but when they don’t the plaque hardens and becomes calculus. Calculus coarsens the surfaces of the teeth, which causes the plaque to stick more tightly to them. Brushing and flossing have little power over calculus.
Removal of calculus deposits by a dental professional prevents the progression of periodontal disease. Treatment ranges from deep cleaning (scaling and root planing), flap surgery, bone and tissue grafts, and bone transplants. Common treatments of differing degrees from a general cleaning to gum, periodontal, or bone surgery include:
1. General cleaning removes plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line (can hurt).
2. Scaling involves scraping tartar from above and below the gum line to remove the hard deposits (hurts).
3. Deep Cleaning - Root planing rids tooth roots of rough spots and removes bacteria that causes disease. (hurts - get the nitrous!)
Brushing and flossing every surface of every tooth and massaging your gums every time you eat are your primary defenses. Seeing your dental professional at least twice a year is your next best defense.
To your health!
Saundra Goodman is the author of an inspiring and invaluable book titled Got Teeth? ASurvivor’s Guide , How to keep your teeth or live without them. Saundra is an expert on how to have and keep a beautiful smile, even with replacement teeth.
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