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How To Remove Tartar Without a Dentist: The Truth

Updated: May 18, 2023

It has been awhile since your last visit to the dentist and you've noticed a lot of tartar on your teeth but is it possible to remove tartar at home? Is there a home remedy to get rid of the tartar on your teeth or is going to the dentist your only option? Our dentists in long island city will tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth on how to deal with tartar!

tartar on teeth

Table of Contents:

The BEST way to remove tartar without a dentist

The best and only way to remove tartar without going to a dentist is by preventing tartar from building up in the first place.

Preventing tartar from building up on teeth is the only option because once it forms, it is incredibly difficult to remove even for your dentist with their sharp pointy tools made of steel.

Removing the tartar requires a lot of direct physical force and unfortunately all home remedies aren't capable of generating that amount of direct force to remove it.

How does a dentist remove tartar?

In order for your dentist to remove the tartar on your teeth, they would need to apply heavy mechanical pressure to physically remove it. If they only apply light pressure against it, it would never come off. It is very stubborn and requires a lot of pressure to remove.

tartar removal before and after
tartar removal before and after

Out of everything that your dentist has in their office, they literally only have two options for generating enough pressure to remove the build up, and that is with either an ultrasonic scaler or a hand scaler.

Ultrasonic scaler

An ultrasonic scaler is an equipment that your dentist uses to remove hard tartar (calculus) by vibrating the scaler at over 30,000 revolutions per minute. The ultrasonic scaler will vibrate and remove the calculus by repeatedly attacking it over 30,000 times per minute.

Yes, it requires that amount of force for the tartar to come off. A light amount of force or pressure won't even make it budge. Think about how fast you would need to brush to reach that speed of brushing.uld never be able to get it off

Hand scaler

Hand scaler
Hand scaler

Alternatively, your dentist can also remove the tartar build up with a hand scaler, which is a sharp stainless steel instrument. The scaler is so sharp that if you accidentally touch your finger with it, your finger will bleed. It is as a sharp as your kitchen knife and also made of the same exact material as it.

Using a hand scaler is equivalent to wielding a kitchen knife. When your dentist uses the scaler to remove the build up, they are literally cutting into the calculus.

Our LIC dentists also make sure to sharpen our scalers before we use it to remove your build up! A dull scaler would have a difficult time in cutting into the calculus and consequently make it very laborious to remove. An ultra sharp scaler will make the process more efficient and effective. It also helps in preventing hand fatigue for your dentist.

How do you PREVENT tartar build up on your teeth

Tartar build up is difficult even for your dentist to remove but what is not difficult to remove is plaque, which is the soft form of calculus. If plaque is left on your teeth for an extended period of time, it will transform into a calcified hard substance know as tartar or calculus.

The tip to preventing build up on your teeth is to remove it while it is still in the plaque stage, which is soft and easy to remove.

Dietary habits and their effects on plaque build up

An often forgotten piece of the puzzle to preventing plaque build up is to alter your eating habits because certain foods induce the formation of plaque. Typically foods that are very sugary or have a lot of carbohydrates will encourage the plaque to build up because they provide the building blocks to form it. Other foods that are also very sticky in texture will induce plaque as well.

List of foods that you should avoid to prevent tartar:

  • Sticky candy like taffy and caramel

  • Chocolates

  • Sodas

  • Juice

  • Raisins

  • Milk

  • Sour candy

  • Alcohol

  • Carbonated drinks

  • Dried fruits

  • Citrus or acidic foods

How to remove plaque without a dentist

Plaque is incredibly easy to remove because it is soft and only requires light pressure to get it off. Gentle brushing, flossing, and mouth rinsing will easily get the plaque off at home.

You do not need a dentist to remove plaque because you already have all the equipment at home to do the job. The way to remove plaque at home is just your everyday regular oral hygiene routine.

Oral hygiene regimen:

  1. Brush your teeth with a soft brush for 2 minutes.

  2. Floss in between all of your teeth.

  3. Use a mouthwash and rinse for up to 2 minutes.

  4. Repeat once in the morning and again before you go to bed.

As long as you maintain a strict oral hygiene regime, the plaque will never get a chance to transform into tartar, thus saving you the headache of trying to remove the build up. The best cure is prevention so just prevent the calculus from build up!

Necessary products for plaque and tartar control

A good oral hygiene is important for controlling plaque but having the right products are equally as important.


A toothbrush with soft bristles is very effective at removing plaque and it is gentle enough to prevent damaging your gums. Our long island city dentists do recommend that you use an electric toothbrush over a manual because it is more effective. An electric brush will vibrate and brush your teeth 1,000 times more than you can do manually in a single brushing session. The vibrations mimic what a dentist's ultrasonic scaler can do but you get the benefit of being able to use it at home.

Toothpaste with tartar control

A lot of toothpastes have ingredients within it that are meant for tartar control. They will help to reduce plaque as long as you use it with your brushing twice a day. Picking a paste that has that benefit will be more useful than simply a whitening toothpaste.

Floss or Water flosser

Brushing will only reach 1 mm below the gum line but flossing will reach 2-3 mm below the gum line which allows you to clean off plaque that is deeper in your gums. Brushing also has no way to clean in between your teeth but flossing will take care of that. The most common type of flossing is with a string like dental floss but if you have manual dexterity issues, you can try a water flosser.

Common mouthwashes to fight plaque

There are a variety of mouthwashes that you can use at home to reduce plaque. Some of them you can buy at the pharmacy while others you can simply pick up at the supermarket because they are legitimate home remedies.

  • Listerine mouthwash. Made of 4 essential oils and will kill 99.9% of germs in as little as 30 seconds of rinsing.

  • Coconut oil for oil pulling. To oil pull, you will have to swish and gargle for about 15-20 minutes. The oil pulling raises the pH level back up to a neutral which makes it less effective for the bacteria to form plaque because they work best in an acidic environment.

  • Oregano oil. Oregano has antibacterial properties so if you rinse with it, you can reduce the amount of plaque causing bacteria.

  • Salt water rinses. Salt is a natural antiseptic and will reduce gum inflammation.

  • Baking soda mouth rinse. Baking soda is very gentle on your teeth and has very potent plaque reducing properties.

  • Apple cider vinegar. The acidity from the vinegar can help break down plaque but you should cautious with using it too frequently because the acidity can be damaging to your enamel.

Other natural remedies for removing plaque at home

Aside from your usual brushing, flossing, and mouth rinsing, there are also lesser known natural home remedies to reduce plaque. These remedies can be used as an adjunct to your oral hygiene regime.

  • Aloe vera - rubbing it on your teeth can help remove plaque but it does have a bitter taste.

  • Guava - the leaves of a guava fruit has a potent anti-plaque effect and it can reduce gum swelling.

  • Orange peel - rubbing an orange peel against your teeth may reduce plaque. This is a commonly know technique but our LIC dentists would recommend against this because the sugar and citrus acidity can be harmful to your teeth by potentially causing enamel erosion.

The difference between plaque vs tartar

Plaque is the beginning stage of tartar, it transforms into it if it is left on teeth for an extended period of time. Tartar on the other hand does not transform into anything further, it only grows in size.


Dental plaque is a sticky biofilm that attaches to the surface of teeth and it contains a lot of bacteria. The bacteria within it can cause tooth decay and also gum disease. What it looks like is usually white to yellow in color. The texture is very soft and easily removable by light force. When plaque is allowed to mature undisturbed, it turns into a hard calcified substance called tartar.


Also known as calculus, it is a calcified form of plaque. It still contains a lot of bacteria within it but it is well protected from external factors due to its robust hardness. Due to the protective nature of calculus, it allows the bacteria to grow undisturbed and that is how the tartar grows in size. The color of tartar starts off looking very yellow but it can pick up stains very easily and turn brown or even black in color.

black tartar that has been stained
black tartar that has been stained

The verdict and our recommendation

The best way to remove tartar without a dentist is to prevent it from forming because once it builds up even your dentist will have a hard time to remove it. The removal process requires a lot of physical force, which you are unable to generate with home remedies.

In fact our long island city dentists only have two ways to remove it even though we have all the equipment in the world because those are the only two ways that work. We have to use an ultrasonic scaler or a hand scaler to remove the calculus because every other method won't work.

Therefore in regards to removing tartar at home, the only method that will work will be to prevent the plaque from turning into tartar. Fortunately, removing plaque is a simple process because it is very soft and just maintaining good oral hygiene will take care of all the plaque.

It is important to not leave the plaque and tartar unchecked because it can cause gum inflammation which will result in you getting gingivitis. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and you may end up with a lot of bleeding gums.

If you were looking for a surefire way to remove plaque and tartar, you should really consider getting a dental cleaning done professionally.



David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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