Plaque and tartar are the main cause of tooth decay, periodontal disease, and tooth loss. Plaque is a thin film that attaches to teeth. It is made of bacteria and food particles which later hardens to tartar. Patients can avoid the buildup by brushing and flossing as recommended. However, routine dental cleanings are important because the hygienist can reach all areas of the mouth. Also, tartar can only be removed at a dental office.