There’s a reason why older adults will tell you to make sure you take good care of your teeth. The last thing you want is for plaque buildup to begin calcifying. Not only will this make your teeth look terrible, but it’ll also cause serious long-term damage to your teeth and gums.
While the best way to remove dental plaque and tartar is to visit your dentist regularly, there are ways to prevent tartar and plaque-causing bacteria at home. If you want to learn how to remove plaque from teeth safely at home, keep reading.
Dental Plaque 101
Dental plaque is the sticky substance that comes from leftover food particles mixing with your saliva. While plaque is colorless, you’ll know it’s there when your teeth feel fuzzy or furry, in a manner of speaking.
Plaque is actually created through a chemical process that specifically involves the carbohydrates we eat. The carbohydrates combine with our mouth’s natural bacteria creating an acid, which can eat away at tooth enamel. Over time, however, this chemical reaction creates a sticky residue that eventually hardens and turns yellow — which is when it officially becomes tarter.
What Happens If You Don’t Remove Dental Plaque?
If you neglect to remove dental plaque, it will harden and turn into tartar — which is officially referred to as dental calculus. While it may seem like a long process that involves eating copious amounts of sugary and starchy foods and poor oral hygiene, most dental plaque will begin to harden within 48 hours of its initial formation.
Once tartar forms, the bacteria will continue to multiply and mix with your food. From there it will:
- Cause swelling and bleeding along the gumline
- Cause yellowing or discoloration of the teeth
- Cause tooth decay and sensitivity
- Cause cavities to form
- Cause bad breath
- Turn into more severe gum disease, like periodontitis
- Eventually affect the heart, creating other health complications
How to Remove Plaque and Tartar at Home
Once plaque becomes tartar only a dental professional can remove it for you. In some instances, proper oral hygiene may be able to take care of the earlier formations of tartar buildup, if you’re lucky.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do at home to remove plaque buildup — and hopefully some tartar before your next visit to the dentist. Here are five things to do:
1. Practice Good Oral Hygiene 🪥
It’s like they say: The best offense is a good defense. In the world of dentistry, this means preventative care. Forming good oral hygiene habits is the best way to keep your mouth free of plaque and tartar — and all the issues they come with.
Here’s what you want to focus on when it comes to taking care of your teeth and to prevent tartar buildup:
- Brush your teeth thoroughly. At least twice a day for two full minutes. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends using an electric toothbrush with an oscillating head as they’re most effective. However, a soft-bristle toothbrush will still get the job done.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste or nano-hydroxyapatite (nHA) toothpaste. Both of these ingredients are proven to keep plaque under control. nHA is especially known for remineralizing tooth enamel and strengthening teeth to aid in the prevention of tooth decay. There are also toothpastes specifically designed to control and dissolve tartar, but they may be difficult to find.
- Floss regularly. Most people are guilty of not flossing regularly — and yes, your dentist can tell. Flossing is essential to protecting your teeth and gums by removing leftover food particles from the hard-to-reach areas in your mouth.
- Use mouthwash. After brushing and flossing, always use an antibacterial mouthwash to finish the job. Swishing mouthwash around in your mouth for up to 60 seconds will kill off any leftover bacteria and germs that linger.
2. Make Dietary Changes 🥦
Plaque and tartar love starchy and sugary foods because they’re high in carbohydrates — which is their source of food. It’s best that you limit sugary foods and excess carbs from your diet by avoiding the following:
- Candy and other desserts
- Junk food, such as chips and dried food
- Sugary drinks like sodas and juices
You don’t have to give these foods and beverages up completely, but you will want to limit them as much as possible. If you do happen to indulge in the above, be sure to brush, floss, and rinse after.
3. Gargle With White Vinegar 🥤
Vinegar may seem extreme as it’s incredibly potent, but distilled white vinegar is naturally antibacterial and strong enough to help demineralize and soften tartar so it can be brushed away.
To make a white vinegar mouth rinse:
- Mix two cups of warm water with two teaspoons of white vinegar
- Add a pinch of salt to the solution and stir until it dissolves completely
- Swish the mixture around in your mouth for a few minutes
- Repeats several times throughout the day — but avoid using it if you have open wounds in your mouth
4. Make a Baking Soda Paste 🥣
Baking soda is excellent for removing plaque and some tartar as it’s both abrasive and works to neutralize the acid in your mouth. If you mix it with hydrogen peroxide, it can double as a tooth whitener.
To create a paste, use a 2:1 ratio of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda or water and baking soda. Brush as usual or leave it on your teeth (avoiding your gums) for up to 15 minutes before rinsing.
You can also add it to your toothpaste.
5. Try Oil Pulling With Coconut Oil 🥥
Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic oral practice that involves swishing around a fatty oil, such as coconut oil, around the mouth for up to 20 minutes.
Coconut oil is naturally antibacterial and is packed with antioxidants, so it can control the bacteria in the mouth. It also absorbs other toxins in the mouth, which can help to reduce inflammation and soothe sensitive gums.
All you have to do is swish around about one tablespoon of coconut oil for 10 to 20 minutes, ensuring that you force it through your teeth as you go for the best results. Remember to spit the oil out in your trash bin to avoid clogging your drain pipe and brush afterward!
Schedule Your Dental Cleaning
Dental plaque and tartar buildup aren’t something you want going on in your mouth. While proper oral hygiene is your best bet, you still want to visit your dentist for regular cleanings to ensure that all signs of tartar and plaque are removed. Book your next cleaning with the dental professionals at Wayzata Dental — we’ll make sure you remain tarter and plaque-free!