Black Tartar On Teeth: Causes, Removal Tips, And More

Have you been struggling with black tartar on your teeth? Let’s explore the causes of black tartar, tips on removal, and the risks and prevention for optimal oral health.

11 min readBlack Tartar on Teeth: Causes, Removal Tips, and More

Perhaps you've noticed that your teeth have become stained or discolored in certain areas. You may have heard about a condition called black tartar on teeth, which can cause the appearance of hardened black deposits, dark spots, and discoloration.

Black tartar to teeth is like barnacles on a ship. You often don’t see them form, but they turn up and cause damage to your teeth if not taken care of properly. It’s a potential dental problem that occurs when plaque is allowed to accumulate and harden around the gumline or between teeth.

Let’s discuss what black tartar is, its causes, removal tips, and more so you can keep your oral health in top shape and improve your smile!

What Is Black Tartar On Teeth?

Black tartar is a hard, calcified deposit that forms when plaque becomes stuck to the surface of your teeth and isn't removed by brushing or flossing. These can appear in the form of black spots on teeth or black deposits near the gumline or around the tooth. Eventually, black triangles between teeth may form, which is caused by gum recession from plaque buildup and can be challenging to treat.

It's made up primarily of bacteria, food particles, and other debris that become trapped between your teeth and gums. The combination of these substances creates an acidic environment that can erode enamel and cause cavities if left unchecked.

Tartar is usually yellow in color but turns black when it reaches below the gum line and becomes subgingival tartar. Subgingival tartar is powerful and tears into the blood vessels in the gums. The proteins and blood pigment then mix and turn the tartar dark brown or greenish black.

Other issues like black stains on teeth or black gums around teeth are usually caused by external factors such as smoking, drinking coffee or other beverages, and poor oral hygiene habits that lead to the accumulation of plaque and bacteria on your teeth. Dark gums can be a sure sign of gum disease or dead tissue build-up, while black stains can be intrinsic or extrinsic.

Main Causes Of Black Tartar On Teeth

Many things can lead to black tartar on teeth, but we’ll explore the most common ones here.


It’s no surprise that smoking is a major risk factor for black tartar. The nicotine and tar in cigarettes create an acidic environment in your mouth, making it easier for plaque to build up on your teeth. Gum disease is heavily connected to smoking as the nicotine decreases saliva production, making it harder for your mouth to clean itself.


When we think of cavities, we often think of sugar. But it's not just candy and soda that can lead to black tartar; any food or beverage with added sugars can contribute to the problem. Sugar is another major contributor to the formation of tartar on the gum line. The bacteria in your mouth interact with sugar to produce more acid and form plaque, which can harden into tartar if left unchecked.

Drinking liquids Such As Coffee Or Wine

Coffee and wine are acidic beverages that can weaken enamel over time. In red and white wine, the culprit is corrosive acid, while coffee is slightly more alkaline but still acidic. This weakens the enamel, making it easier for tartar to form and stick around your teeth.

Trauma Or Damage To The Tooth’s Enamel

Certain traumas or injuries to the tooth’s enamel can make it more susceptible to tartar build-up. This includes grinding your teeth, not brushing regularly, and having poor oral hygiene habits overall.

When your tooth enamel is damaged, it can no longer keep plaque from forming and sticking around the gum line. The weakened enamel also allows bacteria to penetrate more easily and cause more damage. As a result, tartar accumulates at the site of the trauma or damage, leading to black deposits on your teeth.

Plaque Build-Up

One common thread that runs through all the causes of black tartar is plaque build-up. Plaque is a sticky substance made up of bacteria - think of this film of bacteria as the “glue” that holds tartar to your teeth and gums. Eventually, it will harden into tartar, which can cause tooth decay and periodontal issues if not removed.

Symptoms Of Black Tartar On Teeth

Not only is black tartar aesthetically unappealing, but it can also cause a range of dental issues:

Bad Breath

The bacteria that causes tartar on your teeth can also cause bad breath (halitosis) and a bad taste in your mouth. Tartar can cause little pockets to form between your teeth and gums, where bacteria, plaque, and food can linger and lead to bad breath.

Dark Staining On The Surface Of The Teeth

The plaque and tartar that form around your teeth can cause them to become discolored, giving them a dark or yellowish appearance. This can be especially noticeable on the front teeth, where it’s most visible. You might see black lines on teeth called dental calculus, which is another form of plaque that is fossilized into the teeth and can’t be removed at home.

Loose Teeth

Unaddressed tartar can cause your gums to recede and loosen the hold on your teeth. This can lead to tooth loss over time due to the bone wearing away and the tissue receding.

Red, Swollen, Or Bleeding Gums

Tartar can also irritate your gums, causing them to become red, swollen, and irritated. You might also notice bleeding when you brush or floss your teeth. The main cause of this is the build-up of black tartar on the gum line, which is what can lead to periodontitis.

Before periodontitis, you may only experience gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gum without any bone or tissue damage. After around 15 months, initial gingivitis can progress to periodontitis if not treated properly.

Chronic Diseases

The bacteria that can inhabit the tartar build-up on your teeth can also cause a variety of other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. This happens because the bacteria can enter your bloodstream and cause inflammation in other areas of your body.

A study done at the Tampere University Hospital in Finland found that 84% of stroke patients had the same bacteria from dental plaque in their brains. As well, chronic inflammation from gum disease is linked to the risk of stroke.

Ways To Remove Black Tartar Fast And Easy

Black tartar is no easy task to remove, but it is possible with the right approach. Here are some steps you can take to get rid of black tartar and keep your teeth white and health at home or at the dentist.

At Home

When you’re trying black tartar removal at home, keep in mind that you won’t be able to remove it as a professional dentist can. Proper dental hygiene practices can only loosen and soften the tartar. However, there are a few tips that can help you make a start.

  • Purchase specialty tartar-removing toothpaste and a tartar scraper or brush from your local pharmacy.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day, for at least two minutes each time.
  • Floss daily to remove plaque from between the teeth and below the gum line.
  • Use an antiseptic mouthwash to help kill bacteria in hard-to-reach places.
  • Try an oral irrigator, or a water flosser, to help flush away food particles and debris from around the gums.

At The Dentist

If you’ve been struggling with black tartar but can't seem to get rid of it, visiting your dentist is the best option. A professional cleaning will effectively remove tartar build-up that has hardened around and between teeth. Dentists use special tools to scrape away plaque and tartar without damaging surrounding tissue or enamel. They may also use a laser or ultrasonic scaler to break apart stubborn deposits quickly and easily.

Once you’ve left the dentist’s office, you’ll want to maintain good oral hygiene at home and adopt new habits. This includes brushing and flossing regularly, using an antiseptic mouthwash, and visiting your dentist for checkups every six months or as recommended by your doctor.

Tips To Prevent Black Tartar

To avoid the need for black tartar treatment, it’s important to take steps to prevent it from forming in the first place. Here are some prevention tips:

Brush At Least Twice A Day

Brushing your teeth twice a day helps to remove plaque from the surfaces of the teeth. This will help prevent tartar build-up, which can be more difficult to get rid of once it has formed. Technique is also key, as you should be sure to brush at a 45-degree angle on all surfaces of the teeth, including between them and below the gum line.

Switch To A Tartar Control Toothpaste

Using a toothpaste specifically formulated for tartar control can be beneficial in helping to prevent the formation of tartar. These kinds of toothpaste typically contain active ingredients such as pyrophosphates, zinc citrate, or triclosan that help slow down the crystallization of plaque. 

Some recommended brands of tartar control toothpaste include Sensodyne Tartar Control toothpaste, Crest ProHealth Clean Mint, and Arm & Hammer Complete Care.

Stop Consuming Tobacco

Smoking or chewing tobacco can increase the risk of tartar build-up, as well as other oral health problems. Quitting these habits and avoiding them altogether is one of the best ways to ensure good oral hygiene and prevent the need for black tartar removal.

Smokers have an 80% higher chance of developing periodontal disease and experiencing bone loss. Many scientific reviews have shown that quitting reduces both the onset and progression of gum disease.

Use Mouthwash For Extra Protection

Using an antibacterial mouthwash can help to kill bacteria that cause plaque build-up and reduce the risk of tartar formation. Adding this to your routine in tandem with flossing and brushing can provide an extra layer of protection from developing black tartar on your teeth.

There are a variety of mouthwash options on the shelves, such as those specifically formulated for tartar control or those with fluoride, which can help keep your teeth and gums healthy. Note that there's a difference between cosmetic mouthwash for bad breath and therapeutic mouthwash that helps to fight plaque and tartar - so be sure to check the ingredients list to make sure it contains active ingredients such as chlorhexidine and fluoride.

Interested in learning more about black tartar on teeth? Here are some frequently asked questions:

What Risks Can Tartar Pose For Your Health?

Tartar can cause gum inflammation, which in turn can lead to other issues such as periodontal disease. Without proper dental care and removal of tartar, you may experience tooth decay or even loss of teeth. Unknown to most, severe oral health issues like black tartar can lead to systemic health issues like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Can Black Tartar On Teeth Be Removed Instantly?

As tartar is considered the final stage of plaque build-up, it cannot be removed instantly. At-home techniques such as brushing and flossing can help reduce tartar, but professional cleaning by a dental hygienist is required to remove it completely.

The process of tartar removal by the dentist is known as scaling. During a scaling procedure, your dentist will use special tools to scrape away the hardened plaque from your teeth and gums. The procedure usually takes about 30 to 45 minutes and can be performed in one or multiple visits depending on the severity of your tartar build-up.

Is Black Tartar A Big Concern?

Yes - it's considered a major concern for your oral health. The build-up of plaque and tartar can cause gum disease that can worsen over time if left untreated. And not only has the tartar built up in this instance, the black color indicates staining has occurred as well.

Does Removing Black Tartar Hurt?

Removal of tartar can be slightly painful in some instances as the gums may be inflamed and sensitive. But, this is part of the cleaning process and should not be viewed as a deterrent to seeking professional dental care.

The longer tartar is left on the teeth, the more difficult it is to remove and the longer it takes for the gums to heal after removal. Essentially, you’re prolonging and increasing the pain if you don’t have it removed.

How Long Does Black Tartar Take To Form?

It typically takes about just 4 - 8 hours for plaque to harden and form tartar. But it can happen faster if your dental hygiene is poor or if you consume a lot of sugary foods, which help bacteria grow.

The black color of the tartar indicates staining has occurred due to substances in your diet or lifestyle habits such as smoking. The bacteria that cause tartar also produce a dark pigment that can cause the tartar to become discolored.

It can be beneficial to make changes to your diet and lifestyle in order to reduce the amount of tartar buildup. As well, it’s recommended to visit the dentist for removal before staining can occur and the situation worsens.

Does Black Tartar Smell?

Yes - the bacteria that accumulates along with tartar can produce a bad odor, which can be unpleasant. Because tartar leads to gum issues, pockets can form that trap food particles, which can also lead to bad breath.

Do Gums Grow Back After Tartar Removal?

Thankfully, gums usually can grow back after tartar has been removed. This process may take some time, though, as the gums need to heal from the inflammation caused by tartar build-up. With time and good oral health practices, the gums start to reattach to the teeth’s roots. In severe cases where the gums have receded, surgery may be necessary to restore gum tissue.

Can Tartar Just Fall Off Your Teeth?

Tartar can’t just fall off your teeth. It must be removed by a professional dental hygienist, using tools specifically designed to scrape it away from the surface of your teeth. Although unlikely, eating hard foods or aggressive brushing can cause an accumulation of tartar to loosen and come off.

What Happens If Tartar Is Not Removed?

It’s essential to have tartar removed from your teeth, as it can cause several oral health issues. Without removal, the bacteria that accumulate with the tartar can lead to several dental problems, such as cavities and gum disease. The latter condition is especially dangerous and may result in tooth loss if not treated promptly.

Final Thoughts

Black tartar on teeth is a serious dental issue that can cause several oral health problems if not taken care of properly. Make sure to brush and floss regularly and have your dentist remove any accumulations of tartar, as this will help maintain good oral hygiene. With the right preventative measures, you can keep your mouth free from tartar buildup!