tartar, dental, precipitate of saliva that accumulates around teeth at the gum line. Composed primarily of calcium salts, tartar forms as a hard brownish substance that irritates gums and causes them to recede. Inflammation of this tissue may lead to the recession and infection of the bones in which teeth are imbedded and result in the loosening and loss of teeth. As symptoms may not become apparent until serious damage has occurred, periodic dental visits for the removal of tartar are recommended.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.