Dentistry
Cosmetic
Product Reviews
NewMouth is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links. Advertising Disclosure.

Calcium Buildup on Teeth - Causes, Treatments & Prevention

Updated on July 11, 2022
Nandita Lilly
Written by Aaron Clarius
Medically Reviewed by Nandita Lilly

What are Calcium Deposits?

Calcium deposits are hardened formations of dental plaque. This calcified form of plaque is also called tartar or calculus.

Calculus buildup may appear as a chalky or cakey substance piled up over parts of your teeth, particularly near the gums.

The deposits can be white, yellow, or even brown depending on: 

  1. Your diet
  2. The amount of time the deposits have been building up
  3. Other factors like smoking

What Causes Calcium Buildup on Teeth?

Dental calculus starts as plaque, which is made up of bacteria and fungi that colonize the surface of your teeth.

Plaque is a type of biofilm, a sticky layer of microorganisms that bind together.1, 2 Over time, your saliva deposits minerals called calcium phosphates onto this biofilm.3 This kills many of the plaque-creating bacteria, but it also forms a new breeding ground for more plaque to form.3

The result is a buildup of calculus, which isn’t as easily removed as plaque. A professional cleaning is often needed to remove these calcified deposits from your teeth.

About 40 to 60% of calculus is made up of minerals like calcium. The rest is made up of bacteria, other microorganisms, and small particles of food and other substances.3

Signs and Symptoms of Calcium Deposits

If you have a buildup of calculus on your teeth, you may notice:

  • White, yellow, or brown buildup on the surface of your teeth and/or gums
  • A chalky, gravelly, or fuzzy feeling when running your tongue over your teeth
  • Persistent bad breath (halitosis) or foul taste

Dental calculus can also cause your gums to become red and inflamed (an early sign of gum disease). You may notice that your gums bleed when brushing your teeth.

3 Ways to Get Rid of Calcium Buildup on Teeth

For getting rid of tartar or calculus, you can try:

  • Specially formulated toothpaste meant for tartar removal
  • Brushing your teeth with baking soda
  • Seeing your dentist regularly for a professional cleaning

Of these, a professional cleaning is going to be the fastest, safest, and most effective option. Dentists use cleaning instruments that can remove accumulated tartar in a single visit.4

Note that even toothpastes designed to get rid of tartar can take months to completely remove it. They’re also recommended for use with sonic toothbrushes in order to be fully effective.5

Brushing your teeth with a mixture of water and baking soda may also help soften and remove tartar over time, but it will not be as efficient as a dentist visit.

If you use baking soda, be sure not to apply it without water, as baking soda on a dry tooth surface can be excessively abrasive.6

Tips for Preventing Calcium Buildup

To prevent calculus from building up in the first place, you’ll need to have a strong defense against plaque formation.

You can keep plaque from accumulating and turning into tartar by:

  • Brushing your teeth with an American Dental Association (ADA) approved toothpaste
  • Flossing to remove food particles and debris that brushing won’t reach
  • Using a tongue scraper to remove bacteria buildup
  • Rinsing your mouth with water or mouthwash after meals
  • Maintaining a diet low in refined carbohydrates, which feed plaque-forming bacteria
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks
  • Limit frequent snacking between meals
  • Promote salivary flow after meals by using sugar-free gum or gum with xylitol 

All of these will help keep your teeth and gums healthy and reduce the oral bacteria that form plaque.

According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists, “when assessing treatment options, it is important to take a whole-body approach and consider the patient’s diet, oral hygiene, and medical history. When taking a holistic approach, the dentist can treat the disease and also prevent it from recurring.”   

Summary

Dental plaque develops naturally and the calcium deposits on your teeth generally result when minerals in your saliva combine with plaque. These deposits are also referred to as calculus or tartar.

These deposits can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease by causing inflammation and allowing bacteria to colonize the area.

A visit to the dentist can get rid of accumulated tartar. You can prevent excessive tartar build-up by maintaining good oral hygiene.

Last updated on July 11, 2022
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on July 11, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Marsh, P.D. and D.J. Bradshaw. "Dental plaque as a biofilm." Journal of Industrial Microbiology vol. 15,1 : 169-175.
  2. Marsh, Philip D. “Dental plaque as a biofilm and a microbial community - implications for health and disease.” BMC oral health vol. 6 Suppl 1,Suppl 1 S14. 15 Jun. 2006, doi:10.1186/1472-6831-6-S1-S14
  3. Jin, Ye and Hak-Kong Yip. "Supragingival Calculus: Formation and Control." Crit Rev Oral Biol Med vol. 13,5 : 426-441.
  4. Kamath, Deepa G, and Sangeeta Umesh Nayak. “Detection, removal and prevention of calculus: Literature Review.” The Saudi dental journal vol. 26,1 : 7-13. doi:10.1016/j.sdentj.2013.12.003
  5. Frequently Asked Questions.” TartarEnd®.
  6. Madeswaran, Sathyasree and Sivakumar Jayachandran. "Sodium bicarbonate: A review and its uses in dentistry." Indian Journal of Dental Research vol. 29,5 : 672-677.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram