Dental Calculus


Patients often come to our practice with concerns about dental calculus and seek treatment for its removal. Dental calculus, also known as tartar, manifests as hardened deposits at various locations in the oral cavity, challenging to eliminate through personal at-home oral hygiene. We are dedicated to assisting our patients and devising long-term strategies against dental calculus.

What is dental calculus?

The term dental calculus refers to solid, often yellowish deposits on tooth surfaces, consisting of mineralized bacterial plaque, which is removed through professional dental cleaning.

The mineralization of dental plaque occurs over time if not removed by regular tooth brushing. Dental calculus is more likely to develop in regions where salivary glands release saliva into the oral cavity, particularly on the inner surfaces of the lower front teeth and in the vicinity of the upper molars.

As long as there is no irritation of the gums, dental calculus does not pose significant health risks.

What does dental calculus look like?

Dental calculus can take on various colors depending on saliva composition. It is often white or yellowish but can also be brownish or reddish. It is described as a hard crust on the tooth surface.

How does dental calculus form?

Dental calculus forms as bacteria in the oral flora create a plaque on teeth, which subsequently hardens due to minerals in saliva. The mineralization of the plaque is the root cause of dental calculus formation.

Soft dental plaque forms particularly in hard-to-clean areas such as between teeth. If not removed, mineralization, or hardening, begins within days, incorporating saliva minerals like calcium, magnesium, or phosphates into the plaque.

The resulting solid deposit is called dental calculus and cannot be removed with a toothbrush. Bacteria in the calculus become embedded and inactive.

In principle, saliva’s mineral content is beneficial for oral health, allowing for tooth remineralization after acid exposure.

The color of dental calculus

Depending on dietary habits, external factors, and bacterial flora, dental calculus can take on different colors and cause tooth discoloration.

Black dental calculus

Intake of strongly pigmented substances in food, such as coffee, black tea, smoking, and frequent consumption of licorice, can lead to black dental calculus.

Brown dental calculus

Brown dental calculus is possible depending on dietary habits, occurring more when the consumption of coffee, tea, and cigarettes is lower than in individuals with black dental calculus. Consequently, fewer color particles are deposited, resulting in lighter calculus.

Removing dental plaque and calculus

Dental calculus can be removed by a dentist during a professional dental cleaning. Hand instruments like curettes and scalers or the use of ultrasound are employed. Gentle ultrasound application is preferred by patients over the scraping with hand instruments.

Dental calculus always begins supragingivally (above the gumline) and can progress subgingivally (below the gumline) over time. This poses a risk, as it can lead not only to gingivitis (gum inflammation) but also to periodontitis (deeper inflammation of the tooth-supporting apparatus).

Regular dental check-ups are essential to detect and address any dental calculus that may irritate the gums and cause problems. This removal should be gentle to avoid tissue damage. In dental prophylaxis, both soft and hard deposits are meticulously and atraumatically removed.

Removing dental calculus at home

We do not recommend attempting to remove solid dental calculus at home, as it may inadvertently cause gum and tooth injuries.

However, we are happy to work with you to develop an individualized plan for removing initial, softer dental calculus at home. The foundation for this lies in personal oral hygiene, as plaque should be removed as early as possible. This not only prevents dental calculus formation but is also effective against cavities and periodontitis. Proper at-home oral hygiene, combined with an improved oral flora, can effectively minimize plaque and, consequently, dental calculus formation.

If plaque accumulates in larger quantities, it should be professionally removed in a dental office. Regular check-ups, combined with prophylactic sessions, help ensure long-term success.

We advise against using toothpaste specifically marketed for dental calculus, as they can be highly abrasive. Caution is also advised with at-home dental calculus removers to prevent injuries and resulting inflammations.

Dental calculus dissolving agent

Dental calculus dissolves in acidic solutions. While dental calculus can be dissolved with acidic liquids like vinegar or lemon juice, this process also erodes tooth enamel. Therefore, we do not recommend using acidic home remedies for dental calculus removal.

Rinses with coconut oil or diluted tea tree oil may be helpful in some cases but should not replace professional advice and dental cleaning.

How to prevent dental calculus

The best way to prevent dental calculus is to remove bacterial plaque with a toothbrush before it transforms into calculus. Thorough daily oral hygiene is sufficient to prevent dental calculus formation. Additionally, building a healthy oral flora and eliminating harmful bacteria in the oral cavity is recommended.

Dental calculus removal costs

The cost of dental calculus removal depends on the amount of calculus and, consequently, the duration of the necessary dental cleaning. We recommend optimizing the bacterial flora with ozone during prophylactic appointments.

Frequently asked Questions about Dental Calculus

We often receive similar questions, so here is a list of frequently asked questions about dental calculus. If you have any remaining concerns, please feel free to reach out to us.

Unfortunately, a dental calculus remover is seldom able to reach all areas when attempting self-removal at home. Damages and injuries to the gums often result.

Dental calculus can be professionally removed by a dentist in a short time. At home, only regular oral hygiene with a focus on areas prone to dental calculus formation helps. We are happy to work with you to create a care plan for long-term success in dental calculus removal or prevention.

There is no toothpaste specifically designed for dental calculus; hard deposits must be deliberately removed. Abrasive toothpaste with coarse particles can harm healthy tooth structure in the long run.

If you have a significant amount of dental calculus, it may occasionally detach in larger volumes. While not inherently dangerous, it is crucial to promptly visit a dentist to assess tooth condition and clean the teeth.

Dental calculus is not inherently harmful and is a natural occurrence that varies from person to person. Generally, dental calculus does not have significant health implications and is unproblematic.

Nevertheless, dental calculus under the gumline can contribute to the loss of the tooth-supporting apparatus (periodontitis) or increased development of cavities. Therefore, early intervention is essential.

While it is possible to remove dental calculus at home, it is not advisable. The risks include injuring the gums with sharp instruments and incomplete removal.

Dental calculus can be dissolved with acidic solutions like lemon juice or vinegar. However, this is not recommended due to the acid.

Due to the roughness of tartar, the bacteria that settle there, and the retention of food particles, tartar can lead to bad breath.

Cavities describe the dissolution of tooth structure by bacterial acids, affecting tooth enamel and dentin, with bacteria penetrating the tooth itself.

Tartar, on the other hand, adheres to the tooth surface, can irritate the gums and bone, and lead to inflammation of the gums.

Further information

Relevant information is listed below to provide you with more insight.