Tartar: What is it and how to prevent it | Complete Smiles Dental


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Imagine a microscopic army of bacteria infiltrating your mouth, producing a sticky biofilm on your teeth, and solidifying into tartar, a tough, plaque-like substance. This hardened deposit, which is usually yellow or brown in colour, is a silent traitor hiding beneath the surface and endangering the health of your teeth and gums.

Plaque, the soft, colourless foundation to tartar, may be removed by brushing and flossing on a regular basis, but tartar requires professional intervention. Tartar, if left untreated, may wreak havoc on your oral health, causing a cascade of dental problems ranging from gingivitis and periodontitis to tooth loss.

Tartar is also known as Dental Calculus. It is a hardened deposit that forms on the teeth. Tartar dental problems affect almost 68% of adults around the world. Without proper oral hygiene, tartar can build up on your teeth and lead to oral diseases. Tartar is formed when plaque, which is a sticky film of bacteria and food particles, mineralises and hardens.


Tartar vs Plaque: What is the difference?

Tartar is hardened plaque that has accumulated on teeth. It is a yellow or brown deposit that only a dental specialist can remove.

Plaque is a sticky bacterium coating that forms on the teeth and gums. It’s the most common cause of gum disease and tooth decay. Plaque can be removed from your teeth by brushing and flossing on a regular basis.


How Tartar Forms?

Tartar forms when plaque is not removed from teeth regularly. Over time, the minerals in saliva can harden the plaque, turning it into tartar. Tartar can form from both and below the gum line and it is more difficult to remove plaque, and it can only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist.


What is Tartar Made of?

Tartar is made of mostly dead bacteria that have mineralised, mixed with a small amount of mineralised protein from your saliva.

Specifically, tartar consists of

  • Calcium phosphate
  • Calcium bicarbonate
  • Magnesium phosphate


Tartar Symptoms and Signs

  • Breath that stinks
  • Teeth that are yellow or brown
  • Irritation of the gums
  • Gums receding
  • Sensitivity of the teeth


Causes of Tartar Build-up

  1. Inadequate Oral Hygiene: When you don’t brush and floss on a regular basis, plaque builds up and hardens into tartar.
  2. Saliva Composition: Some people have higher calcium and phosphate levels in their saliva, making them more prone to tartar formation.
  3. Diet: Foods heavy in sugar and carbs promote plaque formation, which contributes to tartar buildup.
  4. Tobacco Use: Smoking and using tobacco products raises the likelihood of tartar formation.
  5. Genetics: Some people may be predisposed genetically to create more plaque or form tartar more easily.


How Tartar Affects Dental Health?

  • Gingivitis and Periodontitis: Tartar buildup can irritate the gums, causing inflammation, redness, and bleeding. If neglected, it can proceed to more severe gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss.
  • Bad Breath (Halitosis): Tartar can harbour bacteria that produce unpleasant odours, resulting in persistent foul breath.
  • Tooth Decay: Tartar buildup at the gumline can provide a rough surface that encourages plaque and bacteria accumulation, increasing the risk of tooth decay.
  • Tooth Discoloration: Tartar can cause teeth to yellow or brown, diminishing their appearance.


Can Tartar Break Off Teeth?

Occasionally, tartar can break off teeth when you are eating certain foods or brushing too hard in an aggressive manner. When this happens, it can leave rough or sharp areas behind. It might be irresistible to remove more tartar on your own. However, doing so can harm your teeth and gums.


Treatment for Tartar

Tartar buildup is a common dental issue that, if left untreated, can have major oral health effects. Tartar cannot be removed by brushing and flossing because it has hardened. As a result, expert dental treatment is required to thoroughly remove tartar buildup and restore oral health.

The dentist or dental hygienist will analyse the level of tartar buildup on your teeth during a routine dental visit. They will prescribe expert tartar removal, also known as scaling and root planing if tartar is present.


Procedure for Scaling and Root Planing

Scaling and root planing is a two-step process for removing tartar from above and below the gum line.



  • Scaling is the process of carefully removing tartar deposits from visible surfaces using specialised ultrasonic or manual equipment.
  • Scaling is the gentle removal of tartar deposits from the exposed surfaces of your teeth using specialised ultrasonic or manual devices.


Root Planing

Following scaling, root planing is used to smooth the rough surfaces of the tooth roots, making plaque and tartar accumulation less likely in the future.


Benefits of Tartar Removal

Professional tartar removal has various advantages for your oral health.

  • Prevents Gum Disease: Gingivitis, the initial stage of gum disease, can be brought on by tartar accumulation. Tartar removal on a regular basis helps to maintain healthy gums and prevents the progression of gum disease.
  • Reduces Bad Breath: Tartar harbours bacteria that cause unpleasant odours, contributing to halitosis. Removing tartar aids in the elimination of these odour-causing germs and the freshening of the breath.
  • Prevents Tooth Decay: Tartar can raise the risk of tooth decay by giving plaque and germs a rough surface to build upon. Tartar removal helps to keep your teeth cavity-free.


Preventing Tartar Buildup

  • Frequent Brushing: Use fluoride toothpaste to brush your teeth at least twice a day. Pay close attention to the gumline and other difficult-to-reach regions.
  • Flossing: Clean between your teeth and along the gumline with dental floss or interdental brushes.
  • Regular Dental Check-ups: Visit your dentist every six months or as suggested for expert cleanings and check-ups.
  • Limit Sugary and Starchy meals: Sugary and starchy meals promote plaque formation.
  • Use Antiseptic Mouthwash: To help kill bacteria and minimise plaque, rinse your mouth with an antimicrobial mouthwash.
  • Chew Sugarless Gum After Meals: Chewing sugarless gum after meals helps stimulate saliva production, which aids in the elimination of food particles and microorganisms.



Understanding tartar formation and its potential consequences on oral health is important in accomplishing this goal. You may easily avoid tartar formation and enjoy great oral health for years to come by practising good oral hygiene and visiting Complete Smiles Dental Clinic on a regular basis. Always remember that a healthy broad smile is a beautiful smile! Contact us or visit our clinic for an oral health check-up.

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