How to Remove Tartar from Teeth

Get your healthy smile back
Read Time: 3.5
Apr 12, 2020

Tartar buildup can be detrimental to your oral health if it’s allowed to remain on your teeth. It can eventually cause gum disease and receding gums. It can also prevent you from properly brushing and flossing your teeth, leading to tooth decay.

What Is Tartar?

Tartar starts out as plaque. Plaque forms when bacteria mix with the proteins from food and create a film that coats your teeth. If plaque isn’t regularly removed, then it builds up and hardens into tartar. Tartar is also sometimes called calculus, which is related to the Latin word for small stone, not the mathematics discipline. By the time the plaque has formed into tartar, it’s too hard for a toothbrush to remove.

Tartar in patient's mouth

Visit Your Dentist

If you already have tartar buildup on your teeth, there isn’t a method that you can use to remove it. To remove tartar, special tools at your dentist are required. Regular checkups with your dentist can help prevent tartar from building up too much, as its removal is part of regular dental cleanings.

Tartar Control Techniques

Preventing tartar from building up is important. There are techniques that can be done at home to keep the tartar buildup to a minimum.

Brush Regularly

Brushing regularly is good for a lot of things. It can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease, remove bacteria from the mouth, and just overall keep the mouth healthy. It can also prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar.

It’s recommended to brush at least twice daily for at least two minutes per brushing session. Shorter or less frequent brushings won’t help prevent tartar from forming. Don’t forget to reach all of the teeth in the back, as tartar can form there as well. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to make sure you’re not scrubbing away the enamel by brushing too roughly.

Different types of toothbrushes with bristles

Use an Electric Toothbrush

Electric toothbrushes are generally better at removing plaque than manual toothbrushes. Any electric toothbrush that has the ADA seal of approval on it has gone through rigorous testing and quality controls. For the best quality, look for that seal to purchase a toothbrush approved by the American Dental Association.

ADA label on Sensodyne toothpaste

Use Tartar-Control Toothpaste

Tartar-control toothpaste can help prevent tartar from forming. Look for toothpaste that has fluoride in it. This can repair any damage done to your enamel. Plus, some tartar-control toothpaste contain triclosan, which can reduce the bacteria in the mouth that causes plaque and tartar.

Floss container


Flossing is an essential component of maintaining good oral health. Brushing alone won’t reach the plaque that can build up between your teeth. These hard-to-reach areas can only be reached with floss, so it’s important to floss regularly as well.

Use Mouthwash

As a supplement to brushing and flossing, you can use an anti-bacterial mouthwash. This can help prevent the buildup of the bacteria that can damage your teeth and cause tartar.

Watch What You Eat

Starchy and sugary foods feed the bacteria that are in your mouth. These foods will cause harmful acids to be released by the bacteria, which can damage your teeth. A good way to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and tartar buildup is to watch what you eat and avoid sugary and starchy foods.

Sugary and acidic foods to avoid

Don’t Smoke

Cigarettes and tobacco are bad for your health overall, but can also affect your oral health. Smokers and tobacco users are also at higher risk for building up tartar.

What Can Tartar Do to Your Mouth?

If tartar is allowed to form, it can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Poor oral health can affect overall health, so it’s important to prevent oral health problems by regularly visiting your dentist.

Tooth Decay

Because tartar cannot be brushed away, it makes it more difficult for you to properly brush your teeth. This results in more bacteria and plaque staying in your mouth, leaving your teeth vulnerable to decay.


Tartar forms near the gums and can cause irritation there, which can lead to gingivitis. Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. It can be relatively easily treated by using mouthwash, flossing, and brushing, along with regular dentist visits.


Gum disease, if left untreated, can eventually turn into periodontitis. Periodontitis occurs when pockets form and then get infected. Your body tries to fight this, but its method of releasing chemicals to fight the infection ends up just making things worse when the chemicals mix with the bacteria.

Graphic showing the side effects of tartar

Heart Disease

Oral health is linked to your overall health. If your mouth isn’t healthy and kept clean, that can have some adverse effects on the rest of your health as well. Having gum disease is linked to such health problems as heart diseases.

Gum disease can also lead to an increased risk of arthritis, osteoporosis, and even cancer.

Do You Have Annoying Tartar Buildup?

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