What is Tartar?

Do you know how many bacteria reside inside your mouth? The answer is 6 billion, including 700 different species of them! Not all of them lead to health problems, and a lot of serious diseases and infections can be prevented by proper oral hygiene with the appropriate dental care products. 

But what happens to the bacteria causing plaque around the enamel of the teeth over time? The plaque layers are getting thicker and they form dental calculus or tartar, which stains the teeth and creates openings or “pockets” under and above the gum line where bacteria can insert the bloodstream.

Tartar or dental calculus, which is a severe case of hardening and calcified plaque, occurs when minerals in saliva and gums react with a bacterial plaque in the teeth. It severely affects the gum structure and unlike other milder dental diseases such as gingivitis, it cannot be reversed or cured with improved dental hygiene habits at home. Bad breath, discoloration of the enamel, receding gums, and persistently swollen gingiva are just a few of the clinical signs of calculus formation. Plaque from which the calculus forms can be eliminated with brushing and flossing. However, once created, calculus is too firmly adhered to be removed with a toothbrush. Ultrasonic tools or dental hand instruments can be used to treat calculus buildup.

From Plaque to Tartar

As mentioned previously, the bacteria that cause plaque buildup around the enamel of the teeth and the gums are the same ones that, when combined with poor diet and dental hygiene, can lead to calculus formation. The gum line becomes infected and swollen, and when the infection (gingivitis) spreads so much that there is a loss of the connecting tissue between the gingiva and teeth, resulting in periodontitis. When the plaque accumulation resides in the “pockets” created for a period of time, then it becomes calcified and a lot harder to treat, known as tartar. Show Source


Essentially, both plaque and tartar are almost guaranteed to develop and cause severe infections in the mouth and spread to other organs through the bloodstream due to poor dental hygiene. While plaque is easier to reverse with regular teeth brushing and flossing, tartar causes severe tooth decay which needs to be immediately treated by a licensed dental practitioner. When the hardening of the plaque is extensive, significant problems may occur such as cavities, gum infection, and tooth loss. The timely and thorough removal of the plaque can prevent, permanent tooth decay and gum disease. If the plaque is not removed from the surface of the tooth effectively, poor and ineffective dental hygiene can cause the saliva to merge with the plaque and create tartar. Show Source

 How to Prevent it

The first step to stop tartar from forming and provoking more damage is prevention. Dental practitioners inculcate the importance of regular teeth brushing, flossing, and mouthwash rinsing after a meal because the plaque that forms can turn into dental calculus even within hours. So here are the steps to help you prevent that from happening and ensure impeccable cleaning at home:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day for 2 minutes using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Brush with short and light strokes and emphasize on the corners and areas between the gums and the teeth, where plaque builds up.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste with organic substances that control the bacteria accumulation, enhance the dentine and soothe gums.
  •     Floss once a day.
  • Use the right mouthwash to reduce the number of bacteria and fight bad health.

How to Treat it

In the case of removing the dental calculus formation, a visit to a dental hygienist is mandatory. Teeth cleaning by a dentist, also known as dental prophylaxis should not be neglected twice a year because it is absolutely necessary in order to eradicate tartar deposits and bacteria and enhance the integrity of the enamel and the gum line. Depending on the extension of the tartar and the sensitivity of the teeth of the patient, the dental specialist will evaluate and recommend the most effective treatment.

The first treatment is professional dental cleaning which is suggested for patients with high teeth sensitivity. The dental practitioner uses hand-held metal tools called scalers which help scrape the tartar and the plaque off. One edge is pointed and used to clean the teeth above the gum line and the other edge is rounded and meant for the area under the gumline, to avoid injuries and bleeding. The advantages of using this type of tool are the effectiveness to clean the surface of sensitive teeth and the non-interference with other medical devices such as heart pacemakers. The disadvantages include some discomfort during and maybe after the treatment and more time on the dentist’s chair.


The second treatment is more technologically advanced and is called ultrasonic dental cleaning. Instruments of ultrasonic vibrations are used to break the calcified plaque and remove it effectively, including the tartar buildup in the openings under the gumline. Thanks to the high-frequency waves and the pressurized water the instrument releases, the bacteria residue is removed and the teeth are polished and clean. The advantages of the ultrasonic cleaning tools include the cleaning of the areas that are harder to access with the traditional tools. Also, the procedure is pain-free and completed much more quicker than the typical professional cleaning. The disadvantages relate to the need for protective gear when handling the equipment and the potential complications if the patient has a heart pacemaker.


In conclusion, our oral health depends on our lifestyle choices, nutrition and the establishment of the right dental hygiene. The last-mentioned needs to be a priority from infancy to adulthood as dental problems can turn into a threat for the overall health pretty fast. In Europe, severe gum diseases mostly develop in older generations and up to 40% of the European citizens aged 65 and older suffer from infections caused by dental calculus, and consequently tooth loss. However, even 1 out of 5 people between the ages 35-44 will also experience periodontal infections.

If you are looking for the right dental care products, head over to wearenordics.com to learn more.