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How Do You Remove Tartar?

Updated on July 13, 2011

What is Tartar?

Tartar is simply mineralised plaque build up on teeth formed from plaque bacteria, minerals in saliva and food particles.  It is commonly referred to as calculus by dentists.  Tartar is usually either yellowish or brownish depending on its composition and habits of an individual (for instance, smoking or drinking coffee).  It forms over time when plaque bacteria is allowed to build up on tooth surfaces and is not removed via the action of brushing.

Tartar normally begins to form on teeth at the edge of the gum line.  Given enough time, it can spread under the gums (leading to gum disease) and eventually spread over the entire surface of the teeth.  Because of its roughened texture, the presence of tartar predisposes an individual to further tartar formation because plaque attaches more readily to tartar than to the smooth enamel of the teeth.  The roughened texture of tartar also makes it more difficult to remove plaque build up.

Preventing Tartar Formation

Once tartar has been removed from your teeth, you can prevent its return with some simple oral hygiene practices:

1. Brush your teeth regularly. Studies have shown that thorough brushing once every alternate day is the minimum brushing required to prevent plaque frommineralising to form tartar. Ideally, however, you should brush more frequently than that to remove food debris and to protect your teeth from cavities.

2. Flossing between your teeth regularly is equally important because brushing alone doesn't effectively clean between teeth. Plaque can also build up in between your teeth and plaque that is not removed regularly will mineralise to form tartar.

3. Using a mouth rinse. There are two types of mouth rinses that you can consider:

  • Mouth rinses that contain triclosan can help slow down the reattachment of plaque onto teeth after brushing.
  • Mouth rinses with chlorhexidine can prevent plaque build up on teeth. The only problem with chlorhexidine mouth rinses is that prolong use (ten days or more) can cause yellow staining of teeth and a temporary loss of taste.

Removing Tartar

To effectively remove tartar you need to see a dentist or a hygienist.  Your dentist will remove tartar using one of two methods.  Tartar can be manually removed by a hand instrument called a scaler or it can be electronically removed with an ultra-sonic scaling device commonly referred to as thecavitron after the market leader for this device.

You can also remove tartar at home if you have a metal instrument that functions similarly to the scaler.  However, without the expertise of the dentist or a hygienist, you might not completely remove the tartar from your teeth.  Remember that the presence of tartar predisposes your teeth to further tartar formation.  The best thing you can do if you have tartar is to see your dentist and have him or her remove it then take measures to prevent its reformation.

Tartar is not a significant dental problem as it can be easily removed and prevented from forming. It is only when tartar is allowed to grow unchecked on teeth that problems (gum disease) begin to arise. Make sure you visit your dentist regularly for a thorough clean and actively take measures at home to prevent tartar from reforming onto your teeth and you won't have to worry about the unsightly aesthestics of tartar build up on your teeth.


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    • profile image

      Elle 6 years ago

      Very helpful,thankyou :)

    • profile image

      Daniel 6 years ago

      I had a moderate tartar problem due to bad oral hygien habits, and almost solve my problem with a 5 dollars DenTek kit (pick, scaler and mirror) I just scale my tartar and brush with a battery tooth brush, using with "baking soda" and "Colgate Total" mix (half and half), paciently and carefully scale and alternate with brushing and three days after I removed 95% of tartar and whitening my tooth. :D

      So I think that if I keep doing the same, I'll finally solve that shame problem by my self.

      Chemicals cost the same money of a professional treatment :-\

      I hope my experience be usefull for someone "Do it you self" like my

    • profile image

      Shweta 6 years ago

      Very Informative !

    • KenWu profile image

      KenWu 6 years ago from Malaysia

      Very informative articles on oral health care!

    • JAILTALK profile image

      JAILTALK 6 years ago from Oregon

      Good article. I like the part where it says the only problem with chlorhexidine is the yellowing of teeth and temporary loss of taste. Good thing we can't die from it, I guess we should be using it since these are just small problems!! I always laugh at side effects!

    • profile image

      Dentist Gainesville  7 years ago

      Useful info, I didn't know that some tartar prevention products could cause temporary lack of taste, thanks a lot!

    • profile image

      Doug Andersen 7 years ago

      Read about dissolving tartar at home via daily use of Periogen and a Waterpik Ultra. Decide for yourself - tartar is a weak electro-statically-bonded accumulation of calcium phosphate salts. Dissolution of tartar has tremendous therapeutic benefits.

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Very useful information, thank you.