Tartar is dental plaque that remains on the teeth and hardens. Tartar is harder to remove than plaque and can lead to tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. Tartar buildup is caused by inadequate dental hygiene. Sugary, starchy foods can also increase plaque on the teeth. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing can remove plaque before it becomes calcified and turns into tartar. Regular dental cleanings can also remove plaque and tartar.

Generally, only a dentist or a dental hygienist can remove tartar with special instruments.


Tartar can form anywhere on the teeth especially on back teeth and along the gum line. Symptoms of tartar can include:

  • Bleeding, swollen gums
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • A foul taste in the mouth
  • Affected teeth becoming loose or falling out