Who doesn't wish that at-home care would be enough for a perfectly white smile? Unfortunately, for common issues like plaque build-up, your daily oral health routine is only part of the equation. Let's dive into what plaque and tartar are, what role you can play in preventing their build-up and why having a dental professional remove them is the safest and smartest option.
Can You Remove Tartar At Home?
Plaque, a sticky substance of bacteria and sugars, can harden and turn into tartar, also known as dental calculus. Tartar can negatively affect your oral health, so it's essential to keep it at bay.
While you may be wondering how to remove tartar from your teeth without a dentist, it is best to seek help from a dental professional for a clean and accurate job! Once plaque hardens into tartar, a toothbrush can't remove it. You may be tempted by "do it yourself" tartar-removal products, like dental tool kits or "natural" remedies, such as strawberries, vinegar or sesame seeds. While these ingredients and products are readily available at any local grocery or pharmacy, we recommend speaking with your dentist about removing tartar rather than attempting at-home methods.
When tartar builds up on teeth and along the gum line, oral health conditions can develop. Tartar provides a porous area on your teeth for plaque to adhere to. So as it builds, a cycle of plaque sticking to tartar that creates even more tartar begins. Since plaque can lead to conditions like gum disease and cavities, it's best not to allow this cycle of plaque-to-tarter to occur. When tartar builds up around the gum lines, it can cause gum inflammation and bleeding. This is gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease. Tartar can also pose cosmetic problems. Since tartar is absorbent, it can quickly soak in stains. This means that drinking pigmented beverages, like tea or coffee, can darken your teeth for a yellowish smile. Nobody wants to worry about the look of their teeth while enjoying their favourite drink!
When trying to determine if you have tartar build-up, you will most likely notice it by how your teeth feel. Tartar feels like a rough substance in the mouth that brushing alone will not remove. When tartar appears below the gum line, it can cause raised swellings that may bleed. Build-up above the gum line is yellow or tan in colour and grows larger if not removed. Below the gum line, it may be brown or black.
Like many dental issues, the solution usually lies in prevention! Rather than get to the stage of tartar build-up having to be professionally removed, you can take steps to prevent it from building up in the first place. While you can't safely remove tartar at home, with an excellent oral hygiene routine, plaque removal can be done by following these steps:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Since your toothbrush can't reach all your tooth and gum surfaces, remember to floss (also known as interdental cleaning) once a day too. If you have trouble using traditional floss, talk to your dentist about alternative tools, like interdental brushes.
- Rinse your mouth with a fluoride mouthwash after brushing to remove any bacteria build-up that you miss.
Even if you have excellent brushing and flossing habits, you still need to see your dentist regularly for check-ups. At these appointments, they will remove any plaque you missed with your at-home oral care routine.
It takes more education and specific training to remove tartar than you may realise. As stated by the Singapore Dental Council, it takes three years for someone to complete a diploma course to become an oral health therapist. Beyond that, there are bachelor and master degrees in dental surgery as well.
Education aside, a person probing sharp or inappropriate tools into their own mouth can easily damage their teeth or gums. While you may assume that you know your mouth better than anyone else, your dental professional should be the one in charge of safe tartar removal. Only they can successfully remove tartar build-up on teeth. They do this through a process called scaling using manual scaling tools or with an ultrasonic device.
Don't let affordability be the reason you shy away from professional help either. If cost is a concern, there are many options for affordable dentistry, such as clinics offering government subsidised treatments as well as supervised dental work by final year dental students at National University of Singapore. Such low-cost dental care is provided for these students to gain clinical experience.
With the proper at-home prevention of a daily oral hygiene routine and regularly seeing your dentist for a check-up, you'll no longer be wondering how to remove tartar from your teeth!