Image of lower teeth covered with dental tartar

Removing Tartar from Teeth without a Dentist

Tartar is a brown or yellow deposit that forms on teeth when plaque mineralizes. Once it forms, tartar is impossible to remove through brushing and flossing. Worse, tartar can contribute to many dental health problems, including halitosis, tooth decay, and gum disease.

In this article, we’ll dive into the causes of tartar formation, natural tartar removal techniques you can practice at home, dietary modifications for tartar removal, and the importance of regular dental checkups for oral health.

Understanding Tartar Formation

Tartar, or dental calculus, is a rough, porous, yellowish, or brownish deposit that forms when dental plaque calcifies. This process occurs when plaque hardens after absorbing minerals such as calcium and phosphate from saliva.  

Tartar deposits coat tooth surfaces making it harder to brush and floss properly. Also, tartar can lead to gum inflammation and gingivitis when it forms beneath the gum line. 

Several factors contribute to tartar buildup. They include the following: 

  • Diet: Eating foods high in sugars and carbohydrates can increase plaque buildup, which can contribute to tartar formation
  • Smoking: Cigarette smoke inhibits saliva production leading to dry mouth, a condition that contributes to tartar buildup. 
  • Poor oral hygiene: Unless you remove plaque buildup through regular brushing and flossing, it calcifies into tartar
  • Age: Saliva production decreases as you age, making it harder for your mouth to wash away oral bacteria and food particles. This increases the risk of tartar buildup

Only a dental professional can remove tartar from your teeth using special dental tools. As such, visit your dentist every six months for regular dental cleanings to prevent oral health problems caused by tartar.  

Natural Techniques for Tartar Removal at Home

While regular dental cleanings are recommended for effective tartar removal, some natural techniques can help with tartar removal at home. They include the following: 

Proper Brushing Technique

Regular tooth brushing is crucial to preventing tartar buildup on teeth. However, without the proper brushing technique, plaque will accumulate in hard-to-reach mouth areas and eventually harden into tartar.

To prevent this, use Stillman’s brushing technique to clean all tooth surfaces. This technique involves angling the toothbrush 45 degrees toward your gum line and brushing with short, light horizontal strokes. 

A significant advantage of Stillman’s toothbrushing technique is that it focuses on cleaning along the gumline. This helps to minimize the risk of gum disease, which can develop when tartar deposits accumulate beneath the gum line. 

Brushing frequency also plays a role in tartar prevention. Ensure you brush twice daily for two minutes to reduce the number of oral bacteria and ensure all your teeth are plaque-free. 

Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is a natural tartar removal technique that originates from ancient times. It involves swishing oil in your mouth for 15-30 minutes before spitting it out. 

Oil pulling can prevent tartar formation by significantly reducing the number of oral bacteria that cause the condition. However, limited scientific evidence supports that oil pulling is effective at tartar removal. 

That said, oil pulling can be helpful in your dental care routine. The technique can potentially prevent tooth decay, freshen your breath, and prevent plaque buildup. 

Types of Oils Suitable for Oil Pulling

The most commonly used oils for oil pulling include:

  • Coconut oil: Coconut oil has antibacterial properties due to its high lauric acid content. This makes it ideal for oil pulling since it can kill harmful oral bacteria
  • Olive oil: Olive oil can help reduce gum inflammation since it has anti-inflammatory properties. Moreover, it contains antioxidants that can reduce the risk of oral cancer by protecting mouth cells from the damage caused by free radicals
  • Sesame oil: Sesame oil contains essential vitamins and minerals that help strengthen the teeth. The oil is also rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties 
  • Sunflower oil: Sunflower oil is rich in vitamin E, which is touted for having antioxidant properties. The vitamin also promotes healthy gums and increases oral blood circulation

Instructions for Oil Pulling Technique

To perform oil pulling, use a tablespoon of any of the oils mentioned and follow the steps below: 

  • Put the tablespoon of oil into your mouth
  • Swish the oil around the mouth for 15-20 minutes. You can watch the news or take a shower to pass the time
  • Spit out the oil into a trash can and not your sink, as it can clog the drain when it solidifies
  • Rinse your mouth with warm water and brush your teeth to finish up

Baking Soda Paste

Baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, is a common household item that can be used as an inexpensive tartar removal alternative. Using baking soda paste for tartar removal has various benefits, some of which include the following: 

  • Alkaline properties: Baking soda is a base that can neutralize the harmful acids oral bacteria produce. Its alkaline properties make it ideal for preventing tartar buildup and tooth decay.
  • Affordable: Baking soda is inexpensive compared to whitening products. It can be an excellent tartar removal alternative if you can’t afford a professional dental cleaning.
  • Prevents halitosis: Baking soda can prevent bad breath by eliminating odor-causing bacteria and neutralizing the harmful acids they produce.
  • Natural: Baking soda contains one ingredient, sodium bicarbonate. This natural compound is a safe and non-toxic alternative to the chemicals found in most whitening products.
  • Abrasive properties: Baking soda is a mild abrasive, making it ideal for reducing plaque buildup and tartar removal. Moreover, it can gently remove surface stains without damaging the gums or enamel.

Recipe for Making a Baking Soda Paste

Follow this simple recipe to make baking soda paste for tartar removal:  

Ingredients: Baking soda and Water


  • Measure out the amount of baking soda you need and place it into a mixing bowl.
  • Slowly add water to the bowl as you stir the mixture. The amount of water you add depends on how much baking soda you are using.
  • Keep stirring until the mixture becomes a thick paste with a consistency similar to toothpaste.
  • Make sure the paste has a smooth texture, and there are no lumps .
  • Your baking soda paste is now ready for use. Remember, you can store it for a few days, after which you’ll need to make a fresh batch.

Proper Application and Precautions

Though baking soda paste is a non-toxic and natural tartar removal agent, you should use it properly to avoid irritating your gums and damaging the enamel. These guidelines will help you safely use baking soda paste for tartar removal:  

  • Spread the baking soda paste onto a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Brush your teeth with the paste for about two minutes, cleaning hard-to-reach areas like the back molars.
  • Since baking soda has abrasive properties, be gentle as you brush to avoid damaging the enamel. 
  • Thoroughly rinse your mouth with water to wash out all traces of the baking soda paste.
  • Don’t use baking soda paste frequently, as it can erode your enamel and damage your gums over time. Clean your teeth with it once or twice a week for the best results.

Natural Antimicrobial Mouthwash

Commercial mouthwashes are often recommended for plaque prevention and tartar removal. However, some mouthwash brands contain harsh synthetic ingredients that may cause complications if you have sensitive teeth or delicate oral tissues. 

Natural antimicrobial mouthwashes are a great alternative if you’re looking for a gentle rinse to help remove tartar from teeth. They contain natural ingredients that can help eliminate harmful oral bacteria, freshen your breath and promote good gum health. 

The best part is that you can make natural antimicrobial mouthwash at home using the following recommended ingredients: 

  • Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar has acidic properties. It can prevent tartar formation by killing oral bacteria that cause plaque buildup. 
  • Peppermint oil: Peppermint oil has a rejuvenating scent that can help combat bad breath. Additionally, it has antimicrobial properties that help reduce the amount of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
  • Tea tree oil: Tea tree oil is a powerful natural ingredient with anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties. Adding tree oil to your homemade mouthwash can make it effective against Streptococcus mutans, a type of bacteria that causes tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Myrrh: Myrrh has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce gum irritation and swelling. It also contains guggulsterone, an antimicrobial compound that’s effective against a wide range of oral bacteria.
  • Eucalyptus oil: Eucalyptus oil has a refreshing scent that can help prevent bad breath. It also contains eucalyptol and limonene, which are antimicrobial compounds that are effective against oral bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease.

Instructions for Proper Use of Natural Antimicrobial Mouthwash

  • Shake the bottle before using the mouthwash to distribute the ingredients evenly.
  • Check the instructions to find out the recommended usage amount. It’s usually 20-30 ml.
  • Pour the recommended amount into a small cup and swish it around your mouth for about 25 seconds. Avoid swallowing the mouthwash as it may upset your stomach.
  • Spit out the mouthwash but wait a few minutes before rinsing your mouth with water. 

It would be best to use natural antimicrobial mouthwash daily, especially after brushing or flossing your teeth. It’s gentle on the mouth, so it won’t irritate your gums or damage your teeth. 

Dental Picks and Scalers

Dental picks and scalers are specialized dental instruments that remove tartar buildup from teeth. Dental picks are small, pointed metal instruments with sharp, angled tips for scraping tartar from tooth surfaces. Their unique design makes dental picks ideal for removing tartar from hard-to-reach areas between the teeth and along the gumline.

On the other hand, dental scalers are thin, metallic instruments that come in various shapes and sizes. Unlike dental picks, scalers have a curved tip that allows your dentist to reach below the gum line and remove tartar from the root surfaces of the teeth without causing discomfort or damaging the gums. 

While dental picks and scalers are effective at tartar removal, you can cause significant damage to your gums if you attempt to use them at home. Instead, schedule an appointment with your dentist for a scaling and root planing procedure.  

Proper Technique and Precautions

It’s crucial to use the proper technique if you want to remove tartar from the teeth using dental picks and scalers. However, please seek professional advice if you need clarification on properly using these dental tools.  

That said, here’s how you can safely remove tartar from your teeth using dental picks and scalers: 

  • Select the right tool: To avoid damaging your teeth and gums, use the right tool for the area that needs cleaning. For example, use a thin dental pick to remove tartar from tight spaces between your teeth and along the gumline. 
  • Be gentle: Since dental picks and scalers are metallic, you must be gentle when using them for tartar removal. Keep your hand steady and use gentle circular motions to avoid damaging your enamel or irritating your gums.
  • Position the tool correctly: Hold the dental pick or scaler at a 45-degree angle to the tooth surface, with the tooltip pointing towards the gum line. This technique ensures effective tartar removal while reducing the risk of gum injury.
  • Don’t rush: Tartar removal with dental picks and scalers is a delicate process. Work on specific areas of your mouth per session for the best results. This systematic approach will allow you to carefully clean each tooth and interdental spaces. 
  • Rinse:  Thoroughly rinse your mouth with water after cleaning your teeth to remove tartar particles. You may rinse with mouthwash to kill oral bacteria and freshen your breath.

Dietary Modifications for Tartar Prevention

Your diet directly affects tartar formation. Oral bacteria thrive off foods that are high in sugar and carbohydrates. Unless you regularly clean your teeth using the proper tooth brushing and flossing techniques after consuming such foods, your mouth will become a breeding ground for harmful oral bacteria. 

Thankfully, you can starve harmful oral bacteria and prevent tartar formation by including the following foods in your diet: 

  • Dairy products: Milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products are rich in calcium and phosphates. These minerals keep the teeth strong through remineralization. They also prevent plaque buildup by neutralizing the acids produced by oral bacteria.
  • Green Tea: Not only is green tea beneficial to your overall health, but it also contains antioxidants called catechins that eliminate oral bacteria and inhibit their growth. 
  • Fruits and vegetables: Chewing on crunchy fruits and vegetables like apples, spinach, and carrots helps to scrub away plaque and bacteria from your teeth. Additionally, these fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins that can promote healthy teeth and gums.
  • Citrus fruits: Vitamin C, abundant in citrus fruits like lemons and grapefruits, is essential for healthy gums. Including citrus foods in your diet may help prevent gum disease and reduce the rate of tartar formation.
  • Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds like almonds, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds are fiber-rich. Chewing on these seeds helps to scrub away tartar from your teeth. They are also rich in calcium and magnesium, which help to strengthen the teeth and reduce calcium formation.

Additional Tips for Tartar Prevention


Regular Dental Hygiene Practices

Maintaining good oral hygiene is a lifelong task. Your teeth are under constant attack from oral bacteria, so you need to be consistent with your oral care routine. 

For instance, brushing and flossing your teeth twice each day prevents plaque buildup and tartar formation, significantly lowering your risk of tooth decay and gum disease. 

Additionally, scheduling regular oral checkups with your dentist is essential to detecting and treating dental problems before they become more severe. As a result, you’ll save money you would have spent on expensive and invasive dental procedures. 

Finally, a consistent oral care routine can boost your immune system and help maintain your overall health. Studies have linked poor oral hygiene to systemic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. 

Proper Toothbrush Maintenance

It’s important to note that proper toothbrush maintenance can improve the effectiveness of your toothbrushing, keep your toothbrush in good condition and reduce the risk of oral infection. 

Here are some helpful tips to help maintain your toothbrush:

  • Rinse your toothbrush thoroughly after use to get rid of leftover toothpaste or food debris.
  • Store your toothbrush upright in an open space to reduce the risk of fungal and bacterial growth.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three months or sooner if the bristles become frayed. Using a worn-out toothbrush for too long can damage your gums.
  • Don’t share your toothbrush to prevent the spreading of harmful bacteria or oral infections.

Limiting Sugar and Acidic Foods

As mentioned, oral bacteria thrive on sugary foods. Harmful bacteria like Streptococcus mutans feed on sugar residue producing acids as a byproduct. Apart from deteriorating the enamel, these acids make it easier for plaque to build up on your teeth. The plaque buildup mineralizes unless you clean your teeth properly, forming tartar after 72 hours. 

On the other hand, acidic foods and beverages such as soda and citrus fruits create an acidic environment in your mouth, promoting the growth of tartar-forming bacteria. 

As such, you should limit your consumption of sugar and acidic foods if you can’t avoid them altogether. Additionally, brush and floss immediately after consuming such foods to prevent tartar formation and maintain good oral hygiene. 

Drinking Plenty of Water

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day helps maintain good oral health and prevents tartar formation. For starters, water maintains your mouth’s PH balance making it harder for tartar-causing bacteria to multiply. 

Moreover, constantly hydrating stimulates saliva production and prevents dry mouth, which causes bad breath and increases the risk of tartar buildup.

Along with that, drinking water after meals helps clean your teeth by rinsing away food particles stuck in interdental spaces. As a result, tartar-causing bacteria can’t grow and multiply without enough food to sustain their colonies. 

But that’s not all. Regular hydration is essential to your overall well-being. Water promotes healthy skin, fresh breath, and improved cardiovascular and cognitive function. If you find it challenging to maintain regular hydration, you can try out the helpful tips below: 

  • Use an app to keep track of your daily water intake.
  • Enhance your hydration by infusing water with fruit or herbal flavors.
  • Make hydrating easier by carrying a water bottle with you throughout the day.
  • Set reminders on your phone to help you stay on track with your hydration.

Tartar has significant detrimental effects on your oral health. Not only does tartar ruin the aesthetic of your smile, but it promotes tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental health issues. 

While the techniques in this article can be effective at tartar removal, you should schedule regular appointments with your dentist for the best results. Not only is professional tartar removal more effective, but your dentist will provide helpful tips for tartar prevention unique to your oral health needs.