Updated on February 1, 2024
4 min read

Calcium Buildup on Teeth – Causes, Treatments & Prevention

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Key Takeaways

  • When dental plaque remains in your mouth for a long time, it gradually absorbs calcium-based minerals from your saliva.
  • This hardened, calcified plaque is referred to as tartar or calculus.
  • Tartar deposits can contribute to 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 also prevent excessive tartar build-up by maintaining good oral hygiene at home.

What are Calcium Deposits?

Calcium deposits, also called tartar or dental calculus, refer to calcified or hardened dental plaque. When dental plaque doesn’t get removed by regular brushing and flossing, it gradually absorbs calcium and other minerals. This causes it to become hard, making it almost impossible for you to remove at home. 

Ultrasonic teeth cleaning machine removing tartar or dental calculus

The resulting tartar buildup may appear as a chalky or cakey substance covering parts of your teeth, especially near the gums. It can contribute to gum disease.

The deposits may range in color from white to yellow or even brown. This can depend on your diet, habits (e.g., tobacco use), and how long the tartar has been building up.

Signs and Symptoms of Calcium Deposits

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

  • A white, yellow, or brown buildup
  • 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.

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What Causes Calcium Buildup on Teeth?

Dental calculus starts as plaque. Plaque is a type of biofilm, or a sticky layer of microorganisms.1, 2

Over time, your saliva deposits minerals called calcium phosphates onto this biofilm, which 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. Professional instruments are often needed to remove these calcified deposits from your teeth.

About 40 to 60% of calculus is made up of calcium-based minerals.3 The rest is made of:

  • Fossilized bacteria and other microorganisms
  • Food particles
  • Other substances, such as smoke particles and textile fibers

Risk Factors for Calcium Deposits

The following can greatly affect your risk of developing tartar on your teeth and gums:3, 4

  • Your diet (refined sugar, in particular, feeds oral bacteria)
  • Your oral hygiene (lack of brushing and flossing allows plaque and tartar to build up)
  • Habits such as smoking, other tobacco use, or drinking alcohol
  • Certain health conditions, such as diabetes

However, small calcified deposits may appear in certain areas of your mouth even if you have good oral hygiene. Dentists provide biannual teeth cleanings to help keep tartar to a minimum.

How to Get Rid of Calcium Buildup on Teeth

As plaque becomes calculus, it absorbs many of the same minerals that make up your teeth. This causes it to harden and become difficult to remove.

Professional cleaning is the fastest, safest, and most effective way to remove tartar. Dentists use cleaning instruments that can remove accumulated tartar in a single visit.5 These include scalers, curettes, and ultrasonic devices.

male dentist cleaning teeth of woman sitting on dentist chair

If you have periodontitis (advanced gum disease), you may need a more extensive procedure to remove tartar, such as scaling and root planing. This can only be performed by a professional such as a general dentist, hygienist, or periodontist.

Removing Tartar at Home

Specially formulated toothpastes can help remove tartar over several months. They’re recommended for use with sonic toothbrushes to be fully effective.6

Brushing your teeth with water and baking soda may also help soften and remove tartar over time. Be sure not to apply baking soda without water, as baking soda on a dry tooth surface can be excessively abrasive.7

Neither of these options will be as efficient as getting a professional cleaning. However, they may be enough to remove smaller deposits.

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
  • Avoiding sugary foods and drinks
  • Limiting frequent snacking between meals
  • Using sugar-free gum or gum with xylitol after meals to promote salivary flow  

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

Last updated on February 1, 2024
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 1, 2024
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, 1995.
  2. Marsh, Philip D. “Dental plaque as a biofilm and a microbial community – implications for health and disease.” BMC oral health, 2006.
  3. Jin, Ye, and Hak-Kong Yip. “Supragingival Calculus: Formation and Control.” Critical Reviews in Oral Biology & Medicine, 2002.
  4. Latti, Bhagyashri Ramachandra, et al. “Evaluation of relationship between dental caries, diabetes mellitus and oral microbiota in diabetics.” Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, 2018.
  5. Kamath, Deepa G., and Sangeeta Umesh Nayak. “Detection, removal and prevention of calculus: Literature Review.” The Saudi Dental Journal, 2014.
  6. Frequently Asked Questions.” TartarEnd®.
  7. Madeswaran, Sathyasree, and Sivakumar Jayachandran. Sodium bicarbonate: A review and its uses in dentistry. Indian Journal of Dental Research, 2018.
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