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Tooth or Tartar? How to Tell Apart a Flake of Tooth and a Flake of Tartar

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Have you recently discovered what you thought was a flake of tooth in your mouth? It may not actually be tooth at all (that is unless you can see the damage with your own eyes). In fact, while it is possible for weakened teeth to become brittle, tartar (which is calcified plaque) is also known to flake off your teeth. So before you panic, you should first make sure that what you are looking at isn't in fact a flake of tartar.

What Tartar Looks and Feels Like

Tartar is hardened dental plaque. Plaque is the sticky substance that builds up on your teeth throughout the day. When you haven't brushed for a while, the surface of your teeth begins to feel rough. That's dental plaque forming.

If you don't brush your teeth thoroughly enough, any plaque that you miss will harden into tartar in about 10 days. Scientists recently discovered that tartar actually contains fossilized microorganisms along with calcium. So tartar is essentially a tomb for bacteria.

However, unlike enamel, tartar is quite brittle and when crushed between your teeth, for example, will turn into a powdery substance. Tartar also tends to be yellow, dark brown, or black on the side that was once in contact with the tooth surface.

Furthermore, if the flake in your hand is tartar, the area it broke away from should now be smooth, not rough.

What Enamel Looks and Feels Like

Enamel is harder than steel, hence, unlike tartar (which can easily be crushed), it is quite difficult to crush, especially if you accidentally bite down on it. However, you'll need to examine it to be sure it is enamel.

If the flake in your hand is a piece of enamel, it may be smooth on one side and rough on the other. It may also be white on one side and darker on the other. The biggest indicator, however, can be found on the tooth from which the enamel originated.

Run the tip of your tongue over the area, or carefully over all your teeth if you don't know where it came from, and check for a rough, grainy area that feels like sandpaper. If you find an area that feels like that, the flake is probably enamel.

You Should Visit Your Dentist Whatever the Case May Be

Whatever it turns to be, visit your dentist anyway. If it is tartar, it is probably time a hygienist cleaned your teeth. If it is enamel, then the tooth it broke away from will need to be repaired before decay sets in.

Book an appointment with a family dentist in your area if you ever discover a flake of enamel or tartar. Both instances are indicators that it is time a dentist evaluated the condition of your oral health.