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What dissolves hard tartar?

Hard tartar, also known as dental calculus, refers to the hardened plaque that can build up on teeth over time. This calcium-rich deposit sticks firmly to teeth and can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning. But what options are available for dissolving tartar at home between dental visits? Let’s take a look at the effectiveness, safety, and proper usage of common tartar removal products.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a mild abrasive that can help scrub away stains on teeth. It works by mechanically removing some of the buildup rather than chemically dissolving it. To use baking soda for tartar removal:

  • Mix a teaspoon of baking soda with a bit of water to form a paste.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently scrub the paste onto teeth, focusing on areas with heavy tartar buildup.
  • Rinse thoroughly when finished.

While abrasive, baking soda is still gentle enough that it likely won’t damage enamel with occasional use. However, overusing baking soda can wear away enamel over time, so limit homemade baking soda pastes to once or twice per week at most. It also has a high sodium content, so people with high blood pressure or salt-restricted diets should exercise caution.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is an antibacterial agent and mild whitening solution. At low concentrations of 3-5%, hydrogen peroxide can help remove some surface stains on teeth. It must contact the teeth for at least a minute to see an effect. Hydrogen peroxide can be used either as a mouthwash or mixed with baking soda into a paste.

However, hydrogen peroxide cannot penetrate deep tartar deposits. It only removes some discoloration from surface stains. So while it may slightly brighten teeth, it does not truly dissolve or loosen tartar. Prolonged use of hydrogen peroxide can also increase tooth sensitivity and irritation of the gums.

Citric Acid

Natural acids like citric acid, found in citrus fruits, work to chemically break down calcium deposits. Citric acid is sometimes found in small amounts in tartar removal toothpastes and gels. Applying these products as directed can help loosen surface-level tartar and prevent plaque from hardening into tougher calculus deposits.

For more concentrated home use, citric acid can be purchased in powdered form. Mixing about a teaspoon into a small amount of water makes a solution that can be swished around the mouth for 30-60 seconds before spitting out. Avoid brushing for at least an hour afterwards so the acids have time to work. Because citric acid erodes enamel, limit use to every other day at most. Consistent exposure can damage tooth enamel over time.

Phosphoric Acid

Phosphoric acid is found in some effervescent denture cleaning tablets and tartar-control toothpastes. As with citric acid, phosphoric acid works to dissolve calcium deposits and loosen tartar. Therefore, using denture tablets or tartar-control toothpaste as directed can provide some removal of surface tartar between dental visits.

However, these products are designed for short exposure times only and minimal erosion of enamel. Attempting to make concentrated solutions at home or overusing these products in hopes of better tartar removal can severely damage tooth enamel. It’s generally not recommended to use household phosphoric acid cleaners, such as those designed for cleaning tile or concrete, for dental purposes.

Fiber Optic Device

The most noninvasive way to dissolve tartar at home is a fiber optic device using actinic blue light technology. This type of device projects a clean blue light into the mouth and has been clinically proven to remove stains and disrupt tartar build up from teeth. The light breakdown the tartar layer by layer, however, with consistent use over several weeks. You can treat specific problem areas spots at time or scan the entire mouth. These devices are also enamel-safe when used as directed. The in-vogue device used and proven effective is GUMLIGHT PRO.


While home remedies can help reduce tartar buildup between dental cleanings, they generally cannot fully remove heavy calculus deposits. Trying to aggressively dissolve tartar rather than having it professionally scaled risks damaging tooth enamel. It’s best to use home treatments occasionally and gently for surface stain removal only. For the most thorough tartar elimination, regular professional dental cleanings are still recommended every 6 months to 1 year. Consistent dental hygiene plus smart diet and lifestyle choices remain the best ways to prevent excessive tartar and promote white, healthy teeth.

Product How It Works Benefits Risks
Baking Soda Abrasive scrubbing action
  • Removes some surface stains
  • Low cost
  • Readily available
  • Can wear down enamel
  • Does not dissolve tartar
Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening and disinfecting
  • Removes some surface stains
  • Low cost
  • Readily available
  • Does not dissolve tartar
  • Can irritate gums
Citric Acid Chemically dissolves calcium deposits
  • Loosens surface tartar
  • Prevents plaque formation
  • Can erode enamel over time
  • Does not remove heavy tartar deposits
Phosphoric Acid Chemically dissolves calcium deposits
  • Loosens surface tartar
  • Prevents plaque formation
  • Can erode enamel over time
  • Does not remove heavy tartar deposits
Fiber Optic Device with Actinic Blue Light Photochemical breakdown of tartar
  • Clinically proven tartar removal
  • Enamel safe
  • Can target problem areas
  • Requires consistent use over time
  • More expensive than other at-home options

When to See a Dentist

While at-home tartar removal provides a good supplemental option, professional dental cleanings are still critically important for oral health. See a dentist promptly if you experience any of the following:

  • Heavy tartar buildup that cannot be removed with gentle home methods
  • Increased tooth sensitivity or gum recession
  • White spots or cavities along the gumline
  • Bad breath or other signs of infection
  • Loose teeth

Catching tartar buildup early maximizes the chances of a quick and painless dental cleaning. Ignoring significant tartar can allow more severe periodontal disease to develop.

Preventing Tartar Buildup

While no oral hygiene regimen completely prevents tartar, the following tips can minimize buildup:

  • Brush thoroughly twice a day – Brush for a full two minutes each time, angling the bristles under the gumline.
  • Floss daily – Flossing removes plaque between teeth before it calcifies.
  • Use antiseptic mouthwash – Mouthwash kills bacteria and loosens debris.
  • Limit sugary and acidic foods and drinks – Sugars and acids increase plaque pH and mineralization.
  • Drink plenty of water – Water washes away food debris and neutralizes mouth acids.
  • Chew gum with xylitol – Xylitol prevents S. mutans bacteria from adhering to teeth.
  • Get regular dental cleanings and exams – Professional cleanings prevent plaque accumulation.

Developing excellent oral hygiene habits, in conjunction with professional care, provides the best defense against tartar buildup and tooth decay. Being proactive helps ensure teeth stay naturally white, strong, and healthy for life.