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Can I Remove Tartar from My Teeth at Home?

Hand holding teeth scraping tools.

Tartar is not something you want to see on your teeth. It is not only unsightly, but you also know it is unhealthy.

While it might be tempting to try and scrape tartar off the surface of your teeth at home, is it really a good idea to do so? The answer might surprise you. Even though tartar is bad, you shouldn't attempt to remove it yourself.

What is Tartar?

Tartar starts with bacteria. There are bacteria all over our bodies, and that includes our mouths. These bacteria feed on the sugars and debris in the mouth and on the teeth. The combination of bacteria, sugars, and the byproducts created by the bacteria makes up a sticky substance called dental plaque that can adhere to our teeth and gums.

If this plaque is not removed consistently with brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings, it can harden into tartar. The tartar can harbor more bacteria, which in turn can lead to cavities, gingivitis, and even more serious gum disease. In addition, because of the texture of tartar, it can attract and hold onto more plaque, which turns into more tartar, causing a cycle of additional tartar buildup until it is properly removed.

How do I get Rid of Tartar?

While it may seem like a good idea to remove tartar on your own, the risk of harming your teeth or gums if you're using anything other than floss or a toothbrush is high.

Prevention

The best course of action against tartar, and the resulting dental problems that can happen, is prevention. While this may not be the answer you hoped to hear, preventing tartar is easier than you may think. Simply put, you can prevent tartar buildup with a great oral hygiene routine. And this only takes a few minutes a day.

Brush twice a day for a full two minutes. It's a good idea to set a timer since most people underestimate the amount of time they brush. Even though you may be tempted to try a hard or medium-bristled brush, it is best for your teeth and gums to use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Make sure you angle your toothbrush towards the gums as tartar can build up along the gumline. Floss daily to prevent tartar from forming between the teeth.

Lastly, get regular dental checkups and cleanings twice per year. We can get into even harder-to-reach places and do a more thorough cleaning, removing plaque and any tarter that has started to accumulate so that the negative tartar cycle is put to a stop before it progresses further.

Can I Remove Tartar Myself?

Unfortunately, once plaque hardens into tartar, it is not likely a toothbrush and floss will remove it. Scraping tarter off your own with other tools is not a good idea. Because these tools require special training to use properly, you could do more harm than good to your smile.

Without proper training, you could injure your gums, which can lead to infection. In addition, harsh tools can damage the enamel on your teeth. Enamel is the protective outer layer of teeth, and once lost, it cannot be regenerated.

Professional Cleaning

Because DIY methods can be dangerous to your enamel and may irritate your gums, it is best to schedule an appointment. Your dentist and dental hygienist are trained and experienced in providing comfortable (and safe) tartar removal.

It is highly recommended that you have a regular dental checkup and cleaning twice per year. At this regular visit, you will have a thorough cleaning. But if you notice tartar buildup on your teeth at any time, feel free to make an appointment!

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