A woman is flossing in a bathroom

Can You Remove Tartar At Home?

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Who doesn't wish that at-home care would be enough for a perfectly white smile? Unfortunately, for common issues like plaque buildup, 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 buildup and why having a dental professional remove them is the safest and smartest option.

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.

Can You Remove Tartar At Home?

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.

How Tartar Affects Oral Health

When tartar builds up on the teeth, and along the gumline, 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, which creates 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 gumlines, 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 favorite drink!

Signs of Tartar Buildup

When trying to determine if you have tartar buildup, 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 gumline, it can cause raised swellings that may bleed. Buildup above the gumline is yellow or tan and grows larger if not removed. Below the gumline, it may be brown or black.

Ways to Prevent Tartar Buildup

Like many dental issues, the solution usually lies in prevention! Rather than get to the stage of tartar buildup 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 dental hygienist about alternative tools, like interdental brushes.
  • Rinse your mouth with a fluoride mouthwash after brushing to remove any bacteria buildup that you miss.

Even if you have excellent brushing and flossing habits, you still need to see your dental professional for checkups regularly. At these appointments, they will remove any plaque you missed with your at-home oral care routine.

Why a Dental Professional Is Best

It takes more education and specific training to remove tartar than you may realize. As stated by the American Dental Association, dental hygienists typically study for a least two years to properly clean teeth. Beyond that, there are dental hygiene bachelor and master degrees as well.

Education aside, a person probing sharp or inappropriate tools into their 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 buildup on teeth. They do this through a process using manual scaling tools called scaling 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 dentistrysuch as dental and dental hygiene schools. At these clinical facilities, supervised students provide low-cost care to gain clinical experience.

With the proper at-home prevention of a daily oral hygiene routine and regularly seeing your dentist and dental hygienist for a checkup, you'll no longer be wondering how to remove tartar from your teeth!

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

paper airplane

Want more tips and offers sent directly to your inbox?

Sign up now

Mobile Top Image
Was this article helpful?

Thank you for submitting your feedback!

If you’d like a response, Contact Us.

Mobile Bottom Image