Heavy tartar removal at home (How to remove hardened plaque from teeth)

No one wants brown or yellow teeth, which is often caused by the accumulation of tartar. While numerous over-the-counter methods promise teeth whitening, many individuals are hesitant to use strong chemicals that might damage their teeth’s protective layer – the enamel.

If you’re seeking a safer and more natural approach to remove tartar buildup from the comfort of your home, read on…

Understanding Tartar: The Culprit Behind Discolored Teeth

Tartar, also known as calculus, is the hard, calcified deposit that forms on teeth and gums. It develops when naturally occurring mouth bacteria combine with food remnants and saliva, forming a sticky biofilm on teeth called plaque. If not removed through diligent regular oral hygiene, this plaque hardens and discolors in as little as 48 hours, becoming tartar.

Unfortunately, tartar isn’t merely unsightly; it also fosters tooth decay by harboring bacteria that corrode enamel – the protective layer of teeth, and lead to gum disease. Moreover, calcified tartar bonds strongly to the tooth surface and can no longer be removed by regular brushing or flossing. Only professional dental scaling can fully remove hardened tartar.

That said, you can use specialized oral hygiene methods at home to help soften and remove mild-moderate tartar while waiting for your next cleaning appointment.

How to remove hardened plaque from teeth

Natural Remedies for Tartar Buildup

Tartar typically appears as yellow-brown deposits on teeth when plaque remains uncleaned for around two weeks. While this process is generally gradual, some individuals are more susceptible and may experience rapid tartar buildup.

While only a dental professional can fully remove hardened tartar, you can help loosen and reduce these deposits between visits using natural home remedies like:

1. Baking Soda

You may have heard that using baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate (BS), for brushing your teeth can help with removing plaque and improving oral health. Baking soda is a common ingredient in toothpaste and is known for its mild abrasiveness and alkaline nature.

But how effective is it really in fighting plaque, the sticky film that forms on teeth and contributes to tooth decay and gum disease?

A 2017 review suggests that baking soda toothpaste can reduce plaque more effectively than regular toothpaste. Additionally, baking soda’s alkaline nature can neutralize acids from food and beverages while naturally whitening teeth. Here are the key features:

  • Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is often added to toothpaste due to its mild abrasive properties. It’s considered safe and gentle on the gums and mouth tissues.
  • Baking soda can help remove debris and plaque from teeth while also neutralizing acids that can contribute to tooth decay.
  • Some studies suggest that it can even help reduce staining caused by substances like tea and red wine.

How to use baking soda: – Form a paste with water and gently scrub teeth with baking soda, which has a high pH to help break down tartar. Rinse thoroughly after 1-2 minutes.

2. White Vinegar + Salt

White vinegar, known for its antibacterial properties, can help cut through tartar buildup. Mixing white vinegar with warm saltwater and using it as a gargle can aid in removing tartar from hard-to-reach areas between teeth and gums. The acetic acid in white vinegar is highly effective in killing bacteria, which helps prevent infection.

How to use vinegar rinse: – White vinegar has antimicrobial properties. Mix 2 tbsp with warm water and use as a 30-second mouth rinse to help loosen tartar. Swish and then spit out the mixture and rinse your mouth thoroughly with water. Follow with thorough brushing.

3. Orange Peels

Orange peels can also play a role in tartar removal. By rubbing the inside of an orange peel on teeth and gums, you can help reduce tartar and plaque buildup. You can also create a paste by mashing the peel and mixing it with water, then applying it to your teeth. The vitamin C and antimicrobial properties of the orange peel contribute to breaking down stubborn tartar and plaque.

How to use orange peel: – Rub the inside of a fresh orange peel along teeth and gumlines to help scrub off tartar.

4. Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is an ancient practice that involves swishing a natural oil in your mouth to help remove bacteria and debris. It can help to dislodge plaque, which is a precursor to tartar Oils like coconut, sesame, or olive oil can be used for this purpose.

Here’s how to do it: – Take a tablespoon of the oil of your choice. Swish the oil around your mouth for about 5 to 10 minutes. Spit out the oil into a trash can (avoid spitting in the sink to prevent clogging). Rinse your mouth thoroughly with water and brush your teeth as usual.

5. Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe vera gel contains malic acid, which has natural tartar-eroding properties. You can create a homemade toothpaste using aloe vera gel, baking soda, and glycerin.

Here’s how to use aloe vera:

  • Mix a small amount of aloe vera gel, baking soda, and glycerin to create a paste. (The malic acid in aloe vera helps break down tartar; baking soda contributes to its mild abrasive action; glycerin can add a bit of sweetness to the mixture and help it maintain a paste-like consistency.)
  • Brush your teeth with this paste for about a minute.
  • Rinse your mouth thoroughly with water.

Practicing Proper Oral Hygiene

Apart from natural remedies, practicing good oral hygiene is essential for tartar prevention. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and daily flossing. Flossing helps eliminate food particles and plaque from hard-to-reach spaces between teeth, while brushing with fluoride toothpaste strengthens enamel and fights decay.

Professional Tips for Cleaning Like a Dental Hygienist

Use an Electric Toothbrush:

Opt for a small electric toothbrush with a circular brush head to ensure each tooth’s comprehensive cleaning.

Choose Fluoride Toothpaste:

Fluoride strengthens enamel against acid and prevents tooth decay. Choose toothpaste with 1,350-1,500ppm fluoride for adults and children over three.

Brush twice a day for at Least Two Minutes:

Extend your brushing time to at least two minutes, enhancing plaque removal efficiency. A recent study found that three minutes of brushing removes 55% more plaque than 30 seconds.

Regularly Use Dental Floss and Interdental Brushes:

Flossing and using interdental brushes can significantly reduce gum disease and plaque buildup, especially in hard-to-reach areas.

Incorporate Antibacterial Mouthwash:

Mouthwash freshens breath, reduces plaque, and loosens food particles. Use it between meals and after snacks.

Prevention is Key: Tips to Avoid Tartar and Plaque Buildup**

Preventing tartar and plaque buildup is more effective than tackling it once it forms. Reducing sugar and starch intake is crucial, as these foods fuel bacterial growth that leads to plaque formation. Avoid sticky snacks and sugary drinks, and limit consumption of beverages like fizzy drinks, fruit juices, and high-carb sports drinks.

Here are some additional prevention tips:

  • Consistent daily oral hygiene is essential for controlling plaque and tartar:
  • Brush twice daily – use proper technique with soft brush to clean all surfaces
  • Replace toothbrush every 3 months
  • Use ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss thoroughly once a day – dislodge debris between teeth
  • Use antiseptic mouthwash – kills bacteria missed by brushing
  • Drink water throughout day – helps neutralize plaque acids
  • Avoid sugary/starchy foods – limit snacking to reduce plaque bacteria fuel
  • Don’t smoke – smoking worsens plaque and tartar issues


What Causes Heavy Tartar?

Tartar forms when the bacteria in dental plaque interact with saliva and food debris in the mouth. Plaque that is allowed to accumulate eventually calcifies into a hard deposit on tooth surfaces.

A number of factors can cause excessive tartar buildup:

  • Poor oral hygiene – Inadequate brushing/flossing allows more plaque to deposit and calcify on teeth.
  • Improper brushing – Not using proper technique prevents plaque removal in hard to reach areas.
  • Diet high in refined carbs/sugars – Bacteria feed on carbohydrates and produce acids as byproducts which accelerate tartar formation.
  • Dry mouth – Lack of saliva prevents washing away of plaque bacteria. Certain medications can cause dry mouth.
  • Genetic predisposition – Some individuals are more prone to heavy calculus buildup due to enamel structure.
  • Lifestyle factors like smoking/tobacco use – Smoking is linked to increased tartar and staining.

With diligent oral hygiene and professional cleanings, tartar can be well controlled. But removing significant buildup requires assistance from your dentist.

What are the Risks of Tartar Buildup?

When allowed to accumulate along the gumline and in between teeth, tartar provides an ideal environment for increased harmful bacterial growth. The longer tartar remains, the greater the risks, which may include:

  • Tooth decay – acids from bacteria erode tooth enamel
  • Gingivitis – early stage gum infection
  • Periodontitis – inflammation and bone loss
  • Halitosis – bad breath from bacteria
  • Tooth loss – from severe gum and bone damage

Routine dental cleanings every 6 months prevent tartar from accumulating. But you can also optimize home care to reduce buildup between visits.

When should i See a Dentist? 

While home care is vital, regular dental visits are equally crucial. Professional cleanings every 6 months help prevent plaque and tartar buildup. This allows the dentist to fully remove hardened tartar from teeth and below the gumline that you cannot reach at home. Regular check-ups also aid in detecting cavities and gum diseases early, averting more extensive issues.

See your dentist promptly if you experience any symptoms that could indicate an oral infection like gingivitis, periodontitis, or tooth decay including:

  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Loose teeth
  • Pain when eating hot/cold foods
  • Toothache

The dentist can diagnose and treat any existing infections while removing built-up tartar and plaque deposits that exacerbate issues. Consistent dental visits coupled with diligent daily oral hygiene provides optimal protection against heavy tartar and plaque buildup.

Final Thoughts

While these natural methods can aid in preventing and reducing tartar buildup, they are not a substitute for regular dental check-ups and cleanings. Focus on prevention by brushing and flossing properly at home. See your dentist regularly so tartar and hardened plaque never have a chance to accumulate and cause bigger issues.

Professional dental care is essential for maintaining optimal oral health. It’s also important to use these methods in moderation and consult with your dentist before making significant changes to your oral care routine, especially if you have any existing dental issues or sensitivities.

Consistency is key – keep up your home hygiene and don’t skip your next cleaning appointment!





  • Editorial team

    A team comprising oral health care professionals, researchers, and professional Writers, striving to impart you with the knowledge to improve your oral health, and that of your loved ones. 

  • Lilly

    Lilly, aka, Liza Lee, is a passionate community oral health officer and our lead writer. She's not only well-versed in performing a multitude of dental procedures, including preventive, restorative, and cosmetic, but also an avid writer. Driven by the significant oral health burden all around her, Lilly strives to build capacity and promote oral health. She envisions making a lasting impact by advancing research, prevention, and promotion efforts to alleviate oral health disparities. Please share your views and opinions on my posts.

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