Also known as tartar or calculus, calcium deposits are hardened patches of plaque that form on the teeth. Plaque is a naturally occurring layer of bacteria found on tooth enamel. If allowed to remain—as in when you don’t have good dental hygiene—it progresses to form visible calcium deposits.
Tartar typically arises in hard-to-reach areas of the teeth, especially along the gum line and between the teeth. Even if you take excellent care of your smile, calcium deposits can still form, which is why you need regular dental cleanings and check-ups.
Once calcium builds up on teeth, it can’t be removed by brushing, and left untreated, it can cause tooth decay. Cavities aren’t the only dental concern to consider; read on to learn the causes of calcium deposits, how dentists remove them, and how to prevent calcium buildup in the future.
Signs and Symptoms of Calcium Deposits
While plaque and tartar buildup can be asymptomatic at first, it’s more than an aesthetic issue and leads to a range of health issues. The primary signs of calcium deposits are:
- Yellowish, brown, or dark color
- Textured feel and/or fuzziness when running tongue over the teeth
- Chronic bad breath (known as halitosis)
- Bloody, red gums and/or bleeding after brushing or flossing
Additionally, if untreated, much more serious dental issues that can arise, include:
Removing Calcium Deposits
Brushing and flossing can get rid of most plaque, helping to prevent calcium deposits from forming. However, once they have formed, only your dentist can remove them. This is one of the main aims of your typical dental cleaning. Dentists rely on several procedures to remove tartar:
- Scaling: Scaling is using specialized tools to physically remove calcium deposits and plaque from your teeth. Nowadays, dentists and dental hygienists often use ultrasonic scrapers—instruments that vibrate at a very high rate and shoot water to get rid of tartar.
- Polishing: After your teeth are scaled and cleaned, your dentist or hygienist will smooth out rough areas of enamel and provide a final deep clean. This not only improves the appearance of your smile, but it also removes rougher areas that can attract bacterial build-up.
- Scaling and root planing: In tougher cases, the dentist will need more extensive work to take on calcium deposits further below the gum line and at the roots of teeth and around bone. This more invasive work, also known as deep cleaning, requires a local anesthetic.
Don’t Try This at Home
While you may be able to find dental tools for scaling for sale online, removing tartar isn’t something you should try at home. Not only are you unable to see the inside of your mouth as well as a dentist can, but you risk damaging your own teeth by using dental instruments without training.
Preventing Calcium Buildup
The key to preventing calcium deposits is proper dental hygiene. Regular and effective care of your teeth can get rid of plaque, stopping it from developing into tartar. What can you do? Here’s a breakdown:
- Proper brushing: Brush thoroughly and properly at least twice a day, for two minutes at a time. Electronic toothbrushes are generally more effective at removing plaque.
- Flossing: Floss your teeth at least once a day. Be gentle but thorough as you work to pull food and plaque from surfaces brushing can’t access.
- Eating habits: A balanced diet helps keep your teeth and gums healthy. Cutting down on snacking between meals—and making sure to brush afterward if you do—can also help. There’s a benefit also in steering clear of sugary sodas, candies, or other sweets.
- Water irrigation systems: Water irrigation systems, such as the Water Pik, work on removing plaque and bacteria around the gum line. Water flossing is especially helpful for those reluctant to use string.
- Regular dental visits: Even an excellent level of oral hygiene can’t prevent calcium deposits from forming in certain areas. You should aim to get check-ups twice a year.
Calcium deposits, also known as tartar or calculus, arise when plaque on the teeth hardens and thickens. In addition to causing visible yellow, brown, or black deposits, they cause bad breath and bloody gums. In turn, this can cause gingivitis, periodontitis, cavities, tooth loss, and other dental issues.
Brushing and flossing alone can’t remove these deposits, so dentists employ procedures like scaling and polishing to remove them. Preventing tartar involves proper brushing, daily flossing, going to regular dental check-ups, and avoiding snacking.
A Word From Verywell
In addition to affecting the appearance of your smile, calcium deposits on your teeth can become a serious problem. As with any dental health issue, the sooner you get care, the better off the outcome. The complications of tartar can be treated and even reversed, but this process can only begin after you settle into that dentist’s chair.
If you’re concerned about calcium deposits or have any other issues, don’t hesitate to get the help you need.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are calcium deposits harmful for your teeth?
Especially if allowed to remain, calcium deposits can be very damaging to your teeth. They can cause cavities, tooth loss, gingivitis (gum disease), periodontitis (gum infection), gum recession, and halitosis (chronic bad breath).
Can I get rid of calcium buildup on my teeth at home?
While there’s a lot you can do at home to take on the plaque that forms into tartar, once it’s formed only dental tools will work to remove it. While you may be able to find these tools for sale online, you shouldn’t try removing deposits at home. Without proper training in the technique and if you attempt to work on your own mouth, you risk damaging your teeth and gums.
Is it painful to have tartar removed?
Tartar can arise both above and below the gum line. Generally, the scaling and polishing procedures used to remove calcium deposits aren’t painful. However, if the gums are diseased, or if deep cleaning (scaling and root planing) needs to be done at the root of the tooth, you’ll need local anesthetic.