Plaque is the main cause of gum disease. As patients, this has always been drilled into us to make sure we brush our teeth regularly. But what is plaque?!

Plaque is that soft, white, yellowy, cheesy substance that accumulates at the margins of the gums and the teeth. This is normally evident after a meal or at the end to the day, and typically gathers around the collars of the teeth. However, more importantly is that this plaque contains bacteria which causes an inflammatory reaction to the gums resulting in gingivitis.

As you know (or should know), gingivitis is reversible, which means that if you remove the plaque, the gingivitis goes away! BUT, if you dont, the gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, which affects even the bony areas supporting the teeth! There is also another problem : Calculus.


The calculus (also known as TARTAR) discussed here is not the mathematics in dentistry! It is the calcification and hardening of plaque. If you allow the plaque to stagnate for too long without removing it, it calcifies to form a hard, lumpy layer, which cannot be removed with the toothbrush. Typically, the occurrence of calculus above the gums happens in 2 places:

  • tongue side of the lower front teeth, and
  • the cheek side of the upper back teeth

This is because there are salivary ducts under the tongue and on the sides of the cheek, and the calcium in the saliva hardens the plaque. However, the worst part is once calculus is formed, it has the potential to accumulate and deposit more. Some people have had it for so long, that they have thought it is part of the teeth! There are also some people who are predisposed to the formation of calculus, especially those who smoke.

Calculus on the tongue side of the lower teeth, and after it is removed.

Calculus on the tongue side of the lower teeth, and after it is removed.

The only sure way of removing calculus is by using a scaler – which is part of the scaling process, can sometimes be an uncomfortable procedure. So get your teeth checked by your dentist now to avoid the complications of gum disease!!

Lessons learnt:

  1. Go to your dentist for regular checkups and cleaning
  2. Clean your teeth thoroughly everyday to avoid the plaque hardening to calculus
  3. Dont miss out the tongue side of the lower front teeth when cleaning
  4. Stop smoking!