What increases the risk of developing plaque and tartar?

Plaque and tartar build up is unique to every individual. Diet is an important contributor. In general, a diet high in complex carbohydrates tends to increase the amount of tartar and plaque.
Plaque and tartar (mineralized plaque) are now recognized as "unhealthy expressions" of the oral biofilm, an essential microbial community in the mouth that protects us, aids in digestion and even produces vitamins in the GI track. The conventional "scorched earth policy" of eradicating and killing plaque has not only proven ineffectual but it is also harmful. Studies have shown that promoting a healthy oral biofilm results in a change in the consistency of the plaque film from a thick, sticky, smelly, tartar-forming film to a thin, odorless, nearly undetectable protective layer covering your teeth and gums. How do we promote a healthy oral biofilm? Get rid of the harsh detergent and alcohol based oral care products that disturb the oral biofilm and stick to my Triple A Nutritional recommendations: alkaline, anti-oxidant rich and anti-inflammatory.
Plaque is the bacteria in your mouth that sticks to the teeth. It can be removed with proper brushing and flossing of the teeth. Over time, plaque hardens from the minerals in your saliva turning to calculus or tartar. This must be professionally removed by a dentist or dental hygienist.
Your teeth are covered with a sticky film called plaque that can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. Plaque contains bacteria, which following a meal or snack containing sugar can release acids that attack tooth enamel.

Repeated attacks can cause the enamel to break down, eventually resulting in cavities. Plaque that is not removed with thorough daily brushing and cleaning between teeth can eventually harden into calculus or tartar. This makes it more difficult to keep your teeth clean. 

When tartar collects above the gum line, the gum tissue can become swollen and may bleed easily. This is called gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease. You can prevent plaque buildup and keep your teeth cavity-free by regularly visiting the dentist, brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and cleaning between your teeth with dental floss daily.
Jonathan B. Levine, DMD
Don't look now, but you have an entire ecosystem of bacteria in your mouth -- and when that ecosystem gets out of balance, plaque and tartar are the result. In this video, dentist and prosthodontist Dr. Jonathan B. Levine talks about how to prevent that from happening.
Carol Jahn
Plaque occurs naturally in your mouth. There are hundreds of bacteria living there - some good some bad and they coalesce into what is called a bacterial biofilm, commonly called plaque.  Some people make more than others.  When the plaque hardens or calcifies, it is called calculus.  Like plaque, some people are more prone to calculus formation than others.  Twice daily brushing followed by cleaning in between your teeth once a day either with floss, an interproximal brush, toothpick or Water Flosser, helps keep plaque and calculus to a minimum. 
Some people have a "talent" for having plaque and tartar adhere to their teeth. I am not aware of one particular cause, where I can predict that one person will develop tartar compared to another one.

Seeing a dentist regularly to determine how quickly you have that buildup is a good idea. Some people can see a dentist once/year with no ill effects while others should come every 3 months!
Plaque begins to form on the teeth immediately after brushing. When this plaque is not removed regularly and effectively, it can build up and harden, becoming tartar. Plaque forms on teeth regardless of the foods eaten, but eating foods high in sugar or starch contributes to the formation of plaque. Failing to clean the surfaces of teeth causes this plaque to form tartar.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.