What is Tartar?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
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  • Last Modified Date: 07 August 2018
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Tartar refers to mineral deposits on the teeth, both above and below the gums that have hardened. These deposits are easy to recognize since they tend to stain easily, and you may note places on the teeth with brown or yellow stains. These stains are usually not on the teeth themselves but to tartar, also called calculus, buildup. This buildup is distinct from plaque, which is caused by bacteria on the teeth, but both are usually present in the mouths of people who have poor oral hygiene.

There are two types of tartar :supragingival and subgingival. Supragingival refers to calculus deposits above the gum, and subgingival to deposits below the gum. Once these deposits form, you can’t remove them yourself, and require a dental cleaning, usually with sharp scraping instruments to get rid of them. Getting rid of these calculus deposits is important, since they can lead to chronically inflamed gums and gum disease, receding gums, and persistent bad breath. Tartar also accelerates plaque formation and helps to hide deposits of plaque, which can in turn create greater risk of periodontal disease.


The easiest way to prevent build-up is to follow standards for daily oral care and for bi-yearly teeth cleaning visits. People should plan to brush their teeth at least twice daily, three times if they can manage it. They should floss twice daily too, and also make and keep appointments to have teeth cleaned twice a year. You can buy tartar control toothpaste, and might consider using it when tartar build-up occurs quickly, even despite good oral hygiene.

Other common risk factors for greater build-up of calculus include smoking, having diabetes, and taking medications that cause dry mouth. Keeping sugar levels under control if you have diabetes may help reduce tartar build-up, and for many health reasons quitting smoking is an excellent idea. Some studies also show that oral buildup and gum inflammation or gum disease in pregnant women may be linked to low birth weight in babies, and also to heart disease.

Most obstetricians recommend that you undergo a substantial dental cleaning prior to trying to get pregnant, and that you have any dental work like fillings done before trying. As for the issue regarding heart disease, it is a fact that people are more at risk for bacterial endocarditis when they have gum disease, which can be accelerated by tartar. Many people who have heart disease also have gum disease, but medical researchers haven’t quite identified a causal relationship. Neglect of one’s health, poor diet, and smoking may cause both heart disease and gum disease, and might possibly explain the presence of both conditions in many people.


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Post 4

What ever you choose to use, do not use it with fluoride! Fluoride is a toxic waste and a dangerous carcinogen.

Post 3

Anon, the darkening of your teeth in one or two days is due to the loss of the whitening solution, not immediate build up of tartar.

Post 2

Colgate Anti-Tartar plus Whitening is the best toothpaste I've found for quickly removing yellow stain of tartar from teeth, and making look creamy white and healthy again. The minute I switch this toothpaste for an alternative Colgate or whitening toothpaste, my teeth turn yellow in one or two days. I strongly recommend it.

Post 1

Hey guys, I was wondering if anyone knows of any product that can be used for removing of mineral buildup, something you can buy over the counter like bleaching kit for instance?

Thanks in advance,


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