Brushing and flossing alone will not remove yellow tartar build up on teeth. Tartar is a hardened calculus build up and can range in color from light yellow to brown. It is formed on the teeth when a person does not follow good hygiene habits.
As a person eats, food particles and sugar substances are left between and on the teeth. Good oral hygiene requires these food particles and substances left behind be removed promptly with regular brushing and flossing of the teeth. Brushing after meals and snacks will remove a large portion of this debris. It takes daily flossing, though, to remove the particles that wedge between the teeth and around the gum line.
Failure to brush and floss regularly leaves particles of food and substances from food and drinks behind to decay. The decaying food turns into a biofilm called plaque. It is a sticky, colorless or white film over the teeth and is full of bacteria from the rotting food and drink. Plaque can form on the teeth above gum line or it can develop below the gum line on the teeth and roots of the teeth. Above the gum line is supragingival, below is subgingival.
Plaque that is not removed can transform into deposits of calculus when calcium, phosphorous, and other minerals from saliva form crystals and harden. The main component of calculus is calcium phosphate, a hard, insoluble compound that bonds to the tooth enamel near or below the gum line.
All plaque and tartar is harmful to the teeth as it promotes tooth decay as it eats away at the enamel on the teeth. As tartar builds on a tooth, it forms a rough surface that makes it even easier for food particles and substances from beverages to adhere to the tooth. This promotes more plaque and more tartar as the plaque is left behind and changes composition to form tartar.
It is the subgingival tartar that is the most danger to oral health. Plaque and tartar under the gum line cannot be seen. Left there, it can cause periodontal disease. The gums become inflamed or puffy looking. Pockets form on the gums where tartar build up and bacteria hide. These pockets promote more bacteria and decay of the tooth and the roots of the tooth from beneath the gum line. The pockets can cause the gums to recede and expose portions of the teeth that should not be exposed and have no enamel to protect them. As the periodontal disease advances, the jaw bone becomes involved, teeth loosen, and can actually fall out of the person’s head.
At home, a person could use a mixture of 3 tablespoons baking soda to 1 tablespoon salt once a week to try to remove visible tartar. The baking soda and salt are thoroughly mixed, the toothbrush dampened and used to pick up the mixture. However, this does nothing to remove plaque and tartar that is almost undoubtedly hiding below the gum line.
A dental appointment should be made for a routine cleaning and examination. After the hygienist has seen the patient, the dentist will come in to do an examination. The dentist will be able to immediately recognize periodontal disease if pockets are on the gums, if it is present. To remove the tartar on the teeth, the dentist will recommend a series of root planing and scaling appointments to clean all four quadrants of the mouth.
During root planing and scaling, the hygienist or dentist will use a combination of high pressure water with a salt compound and scaling with dental instruments to remove the tartar. The dentist may need to refer the patient out to a periodontist for further scaling and cleaning once the initial root planing is done if the gum disease is very advanced.
Prevention steps of practicing good oral hygiene habits through regular brushing and flossing can greatly reduce tartar. Those who do see tartar on their teeth, should make an appointment with a dentist as soon as possible. It can mean the difference in saving or losing teeth. During my years of work in the dental field, the only patients I saw come through the office that had teeth fall out were those who did not practice good oral hygiene and had gum disease. Those with poor oral hygiene habits, including failure to keep routine dental visits, were also the patients who had the most cavities and other oral health problems.