Tartar: cause and removal

Tartar is calcified plaque or dental plaque. Tartar forms quite quickly if the teeth are not cleared of plaque. Dental plaque does not yet have any adverse health effects, but tartar does. For example, gum disease may develop. Tartar is often found on the front teeth of the lower jaw. It is important to quickly remove tartar and tackle the cause.

Dental plaque becomes tartar

Tartar is formed from dental plaque. Dental plaque forms during the day and adheres to the teeth and molars. It is often not clearly visible due to its white color. It is easy to scrape off the teeth and molars. If you rub it with your nail, you will see a sticky white substance on the nail. This is the dental plaque. Dental plaque consists of mucus, bacteria and food particles. If plaque is not removed, it calcifies into tartar. Dental plaque changes its structure within 24 to 48 hours and calcifies into a hard layer.


Calcified plaque is therefore called tartar. Plaque can still be removed yourself, but tartar is hard and is well attached to the tooth. Tartar cannot therefore be brushed away yourself. It is located mainly opposite the salivary glands: on the front teeth of the lower jaw and on the molars of the upper jaw. Tartar can also form between the teeth if the plaque is not removed regularly. The preferred spot is mainly found on the edge between the tooth and gums.

Brown deposits

In the beginning, tartar is not yet visible to the naked eye. However, tartar attracts new plaque, as well as dyes from foods and drinks. This causes tartar to discolour easily. We often see a brown deposit just above the gum line. Drinking a lot of coffee and tea in particular gives this result.

Remove tartar yourself

The dentist or dental hygienist uses a hook to scrape away tartar. The disadvantage of this hook is that it scrapes away a layer of enamel. Anyone who tries to remove tartar themselves using this bracket runs a great risk of damaging the teeth and molars, making cavities and inflammation much easier to develop. Working with dental brackets should only be left to specialists.
Good brushing is important. This removes early tartar. The toothbrush is placed at a 45 degree angle against the gum line. You should not brush too hard; this causes gum recession. In addition, the teeth must also be cleaned using dental floss, brushes or toothpicks. Not only between the teeth, but also the gum line must be cleaned of plaque. Often a lot is still removed along the gum line, despite good brushing. The toothbrush doesn’t remove everything. Rinsing after cleaning is recommended: this removes loose residues of plaque in the mouth. This can be with water or a mouthwash.

Dentist or dental hygienist

The best way to remove tartar is to have it done by the dentist or dental hygienist. In general, the dental hygienist takes a little more time and the cleaning is done more thoroughly. The tartar is removed using equipment that vibrates the tartar loose. Ultrasonic vibrations are used. The tartar is then manually removed from between the teeth using a hook. At the end, teeth and molars are polished. Polishing makes the teeth smooth, so new plaque does not adhere as quickly.
Some people suffer from tartar more and more quickly than others. This may be due to the brushing method on the one hand, but also to the type of food and the composition of the saliva on the other. It is important to have tartar removed regularly. Tartar that is not removed is a cause of gum disease, called gingivitis. This can eventually develop into periodontal disease, which can result in the loss of teeth and molars. Tartar removal is often reimbursed by health insurance. Depending on the insurance, an additional payment may be required. Ask your own health insurer how much is reimbursed annually. In general, having tartar removed twice a year is sufficient. If many complaints of bleeding gums arise, it is sometimes necessary to have tartar removed three to four times a year. It can be useful to use plaque detectors: these are tablets that are broken after brushing your teeth. Where there is still plaque, a red or blue color appears. This can be used to learn to effectively remove plaque. This prevents new tartar.

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