What is it, and why does tartar occur on the teeth?As detailed in an article published in the Journal of the Indian Society of Periodontology, tartar is a calcified mass that usually forms in areas of the mouth with a constant supply of saliva. To be more exact, mineralized dental plaque forms due to bacterial growth and the accumulation of food residues. This, in general, is constantly removed with a good brushing. However, if there are not good hygiene habits or if it accumulates excessively, it gives rise to tartar. In most cases, this is seen as a sticky, clay-like film that is whitish-yellow. But when they occur subgingivally, they are not clinically visible and can take on a color ranging from dark brown to green and black. Without treatment, they can lead to other dental disorders, such as bad breath, gum disease, and cavities. Given its complexity, the intervention of the dentist is essential.
Causes of the dental tartarDental tartar forms due to a chemical reaction that occurs due to the action of saliva and food residues. It causes the hardening of bacterial plaque, especially when there is no good hygiene. Sometimes, changes in the pH of saliva affect the formation of these stones. Other factors, such as high consumption of sugars and smoking, are also related.
Is it possible to remove tartar from teeth naturally?Before knowing the most used home remedies to remove tartar from teeth naturally, it is essential to clarify; no natural solution can remove this calcification. Although popular literature describes the supposed benefits of a wide variety of ingredients, the truth is that there is no evidence of their effectiveness. On the contrary, it has been determined that its long-term use can deteriorate tooth enamel and lead to oral health complications. So what is the correct way to remove tartar from teeth? When the hard plaque film has already formed, it is necessary to go to the dentist for effective treatment. The professional will perform a dental cleaning at the clinic, called a “vitrectomy” or “dental prophylaxis.” In most cases, this procedure is painless and does not cause complications. However, if there is severe dental sensitivity, the dentist chooses to use anesthesia in the form of a spray. The process takes about half an hour and is suggested to be done once or twice a year.
Strategies to remove tartar from teeth naturallyAs we have detailed, once it has formed, it is not possible to remove tartar from the teeth unless you go to the dentist for professional treatment. Despite this, several strategies help control or prevent their formation.
Using an electric toothbrushBoth manual and electric toothbrushes can help remove plaque that builds up between teeth. However, the latter seems to have an advantage. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology : However, its effectiveness depends on other factors, such as the time of use, the frequency of brushing, and the technique. It must be considered that, despite these findings, brushing is usually insufficient to clean interproximal surfaces.
Choosing a fluoride toothpasteOral hygiene products play an essential role in cleaning the mouth. If it is about removing dental plaque and preventing tartar and cavities, it is best to opt for fluoride toothpaste. As exposed by a study disclosed through Materia Socio Medica, fluoride is a substance that increases the resistance of dental enamel to the action of acids derived from bacterial growth and food residues. Children over three should use toothpaste with a concentration of 1,350 to 1,500 ppm fluoride. Still, this amount can vary for younger children and adults.
Use dental floss and interdental brushesThe best complement to tooth brushing is dental floss or interdental brushes. These elements are crucial to removing the plaque that accumulates between the teeth and, thus, reducing the formation of tartar. In fact, as an article published in NIH News in Health details, regular use reduces mild gum disease, or gingivitis, better than just using a toothbrush. Also, overall, it significantly reduces plaque after 1-3 months of use. However, it was reported through Evidence-Based Dentistry that using interdental brushes removes more dental plaque than brushing and flossing. These allow you to clean hard-to-reach areas between the teeth and gums.
Using an antibacterial mouthwashAn investigation through the Cureus Journal of Medical Science reported that antimicrobial mouthwashes are essential in preventing bacterial plaque —the leading cause of tartar— by inhibiting oral bacteria’s growth, metabolism, and colonization. In particular, rinses containing chlorhexidine gluconate were found to be quite effective in reducing plaque buildup. Experts have even called it the “gold standard for plaque control.” In addition, they observed that its effects are enhanced in combination with chitosan.
Maintain regular oral hygiene habits.Beyond using the products mentioned to eliminate the presence of tartar on the teeth, it is essential to ensure regular hygiene habits. What does this mean? Simple! It is necessary to repeat brushing at least twice daily, although ideally three or after each meal. In addition, brushing should be done for at least 2 or 3 minutes. If it is done between 30 and 45 seconds, it will not be enough to remove plaque and prevent tartar. A study shared via the Journal of Dental Hygiene detailed that brushing for 3 minutes removed 55% more plaque than brushing for 30 seconds.
Maintain a healthy dietEvidence suggests that regular consumption of sugary and starchy foods helps create an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria in the mouth. They also promote the release of harmful acids. If the objective is to remove dental plaque and tartar, controlling the intake of these products is essential. Instead, it is convenient to increase the presence of healthy foods in the diet, such as fruits and vegetables. Likewise, it is advisable to ensure an optimal intake of water.
avoid tobaccoTobacco use is one of the risk factors for dental tartar and periodontal disease. As research reported in Infection and Immunity details, smokers exhibit higher levels of specific pro-inflammatory cytokines implicated in periodontitis. In addition, more susceptibility to colonization by bacteria that form biofilms on teeth has been observed.
Home remedies to remove tartar from teeth: are they useful?Until recently, home remedies to remove dental tartar were a ‘boom’ among Internet users. For many years, various ingredients were reported that were supposed to release this calcification. However, science and dental professionals have taken it upon themselves to deny most of them. As we have commented, instead of this, it is warned that they can be harmful, mainly when used excessively. Below, we detail discuss the most popular.
1. Baking sodaThe use of sodium bicarbonate as an adjuvant to care for oral health is controversial. First of all, it should be clarified that this substance by itself cannot remove tartar from teeth naturally. As already pointed out, the dentist can only solve this problem. Even so, its effects against bacterial plaque and preventing oral problems are discussed. While some dental health professionals suggest that it is an abrasive substance that damages tooth enamel in the long term, others suggest its use in small amounts is safe. But what does science say? A systematic review shared in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene reported that sodium bicarbonate had low abrasiveness in relative dentin abrasion tests. Specifically, its index is 7 out of 100, which indicates that it is pretty moderate compared to the level of abrasion of other dental products. Despite this, it is feared that its home application increases the risk of damage to dental enamel, mainly due to the technique used during brushing.
What do the experts say?Dr. Gary Oscar Málaga Rivera explains on the dental health portal Dentaly.org why the homemade use of baking soda is not convenient. The professional points out that the abrasiveness index increases depending on the dust particle size and the application method. That said, the ideal way to take advantage of the beneficial effects of bicarbonate on dental health is through toothpastes that contain it. The evidence suggests that they are more effective in removing plaque bacteria compared to pasta that does not have the ingredient.
Homemade recipe with baking sodaIn contrast to the above, professionals such as Dr. Federico Baena Q favor the home use of sodium bicarbonate, although prudently. The dental prosthetics and implantology specialist shares a method for preparing homemade toothpaste with baking soda through his YouTube channel. It combines a tablespoon of edible coconut oil (extra virgin), baking soda, two vitamin E capsules, two stevia sachets, and 15 drops of mint tea. Then, it is stored in an airtight glass jar, and, at the moment of use, it is applied with a spoon on the toothbrush. Baena details that this paste can be an alternative for people with a hypersensitivity reaction to toothpaste containing sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). In a recent video, he comments that he has been using it for two years without problems. He emphasizes that it must be tested individually and its effects evaluated. If there are signs of adverse reactions, it is best to try other alternatives.
2. LemonIn popular literature, lemon juice was considered an adjunct to dental care due to its antibacterial and purported whitening properties. A research article in the Journal of Oral Hygiene and Health evaluated its effect as a mouthwash. There it was determined that it helps to act against certain oral bacteria, such as the DH5α strain of E. coli. However, these findings are not enough to affirm the benefits. Aside from being a small study, researchers do not ignore that citrus acids can cause dental erosion. Related to this, another study in PLoS One reported that lemon juice eats away at dental enamel—the layer that protects teeth—and this damage is irreversible. That being said, its risks outweigh the possible benefits. Therefore, its use is discouraged, especially now that safer alternatives exist.
3. Hydrogen peroxideThe homemade application of hydrogen peroxide does not help to remove tartar from the teeth naturally. Nor is it a solution against the yellowish hue that is acquired by the presence of bacterial plaque. However, its clinical and formulated use has some oral health benefits. A study shared in the Scientific World Journal detailed that mouth rinses with hydrogen peroxide and a 10% carbamide peroxide gel promote teeth whitening. Meanwhile, a study in the journal Nature reported that hydrogen peroxide can help stop the growth of bacteria that cause periodontitis. Thus, it could be a non-surgical resource to combat this disease.
What’s the downside?Like baking soda, the risk of hydrogen peroxide lies in its misuse. Using too high concentrations or a large amount of product carries risks. Its accidental ingestion can cause stomach upset and vomiting. To use it safely at home, combining two parts of water and one part of hydrogen peroxide to make external rinses (gargle for 30 seconds) is convenient. Its effectiveness increases in clinical use. In any case, the best option is to use rinses formulated with the ingredient.
4. Coconut oilCoconut oil rinses have long been famous for naturally removing tartar. It is not a relief for this dental problem. However, taking care of dental health and reducing infection risk has benefits. In an investigation shared through the Journal of the International Society of Preventive and Community Dentistry, it was determined that coconut oil helps stop the growth of Streptococcus mutants, a bacterium that causes cavities. Another study showed similar results. For its part, through the Nigerian Medical Journal, it was reported that rinsing therapy with coconut oil is an adjuvant to reduce the formation of tartar and plaque-induced gingivitis. In turn, this helps control other discomforts such as bad breath.
How does this remedy?
- First, put a tablespoon of warm coconut oil in your mouth. It is then moved throughout the mouth for 5 to 10 minutes. To finish, you must expel the oil on a paper towel or a boat (not through the pipe because it can clog it).
5. Apple cider vinegarLike baking soda and lemon, apple cider vinegar has been one of the most popular remedies to remove tartar from teeth naturally. Some recipes even suggest the combination of all these ingredients to “enhance their effects.” But far from being positive, this product can cause irreversible damage to teeth. Like lemon, its high acid concentration can lead to tooth enamel erosion. Thus, it also affects a greater risk of dental sensitivity and cavities. Some defend its use, as there is evidence of its potential to combat infectious agents in the mouth and reduce plaque formation. Despite this, experts warn that its risks significantly outweigh its benefits. That said, it is best not to use it. In case of doing so, it must be diluted in water. Home rinses often use a tablespoon of vinegar for every glass of water. This mixture is considered safe, but it is probably not adequate.
6. Sesame seedsIt is not true that chewing these seeds helps eliminate accumulated teeth residues. Regarding its possible effects, an investigation found that rinsing with the oil from this ingredient causes moderate antimicrobial activity against S. mutants and L. acidophilus. Another study in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine reported similar effects and associated them with its sesamin, sesamolin, and sesamol content. These bacteria are related to the formation of bacterial plaque and gingivitis. Therefore, this remedy could be considered complementary.
Other remedies that do not work to remove tartar from teeth naturallyThe list of home remedies against dental tartar is quite extensive. But like those mentioned in the previous point, they do not represent an effective treatment option. Most lack evidence regarding its possible effects on oral health. Therefore, its use is discouraged.
- Parsley: No evidence chewing parsley removes dental tartar or benefits oral health. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it helps neutralize lousy breath (halitosis).
- Strawberries: rubbing your teeth with this fruit is not a solution to remove tartar from your teeth. It is also not a good option for whitening teeth. The American Dental Association warns that saturating your teeth with fruit acids can damage tooth enamel.
- Mountain wormwood (Artemisia arborescens L): in traditional medicine, it was considered a supplement to combat gingivitis, ulcers, bad breath, and toothache. However, there is not enough evidence. In high doses, it is toxic.
- Activated charcoal: Home use of activated charcoal can wear down tooth enamel and increase the risk of oral conditions. The reason? It is an abrasive substance. Also, recent studies could not prove its whitening effect.
- Citrus peels. They can affect tooth enamel due to their acid content.
What to remember about dental tartar removal?
- Once formed, dental tartar can only be removed by professional methods in the dental office. Although folk remedies have promised to help against this condition for years, the truth is that they are ineffective.
- Some natural ingredients can potentially reduce the risk of plaque bacteria, the leading cause of tartar. Still, these do not replace the beneficial effects of good dental hygiene. In addition, they should be used with caution only as a complement.