The simplest way to remove dental plaque from your teeth is to floss then brush your teeth.
You can prevent some plaque formation with lifestyle changes like a healthy diet, good dental hygiene, and quitting smoking. However, some dental plaque will always form on your teeth.
You need to remove plaque from your teeth because it contributes to tooth decay, periodontitis (gum disease), and tartar formation. Simply put, tartar is hardened plaque that traps stains and worsens your oral health.
You can’t remove tartar at home. A dental professional must remove tartar.
How can I remove tartar from my teeth without going to the dentist? You cannot safely remove tartar from your teeth without going to the dentist.
Tartar control toothpaste and at-home remedies like white vinegar gargles may prevent tartar formation, but once it is formed, a dentist has to remove tartar from your teeth.
Read below for all the ways you can safely remove plaque from your teeth.
What is plaque?
Dental plaque is the white sticky film that quickly gathers on your tooth enamel and under your gum line. Removing dental plaque is the main purpose of most oral care products — such as toothbrushes, floss, and interdental brushes.
Note: “Plaque” may also refer to arterial plaque (heart disease-related LDL cholesterol) or amyloid plaque (Alzheimer’s-related protein). Dental plaque refers to harmful bacteria buildup on your tooth surface.
What causes plaque buildup?
- Harmful bacteria in your oral cavity
- Lack of oral hygiene routine
- Imbalanced oral microbiome
- Unhealthy diet, rich in sugary foods
- Food particles lingering in your mouth
- Not having a dental cleaning every 6 months
When plaque remains on your teeth for extended periods of time, it can harden into tartar.
Also called dental calculus, tartar is a crusty deposit that results in hard-to-remove discoloration. Tartar makes it harder for you to remove dental plaque — turning into a vicious cycle.
Only a dental professional can safely remove tartar.
How do you scrape plaque off your teeth? You “scrape” plaque off your teeth with floss and a toothbrush. Scraping with dental tools — like the professional tools that scrape off tartar buildup — can easily damage your tooth enamel if used improperly.
Leave the professional scraping to the dental professionals, and stick to flossing then brushing.
What happens when you don’t get rid of plaque?
- Cavities (AKA tooth decay)
- Gum disease/gingivitis
- Bad breath
- Tartar formation
- Receding gums
- Tooth loss
Long-term, the harmful bacteria in dental plaque can make its way into the gums, then into the bloodstream. The harmful bacteria may spread throughout your body, causing systemic medical conditions, such as heart disease.
You can remove plaque at home, but not tartar.
You can easily remove plaque at home, using floss and a toothbrush. Other methods exist, like oil pulling, but removing plaque at home is as easy as flossing and brushing your teeth twice a day.
How can I remove tartar from my teeth at home? A dental professional can remove tartar from your teeth with special tools. If a non-dentist were to use these tools, your tooth enamel would almost certainly be damaged. You cannot safely remove tartar at home.
Is it safe to remove tartar at home? No, tartar is not safe to remove at home. You must visit your dentist to have tartar removed. Do not listen to home remedy sites feeding you dangerous false information. Trying to remove tartar from teeth yourself may damage them.
How to Remove Plaque From Teeth
There are lots of ways to remove plaque from your teeth. Here are the 8 most common plaque removal methods:
- Oil pulling
- Baking soda
- Lifestyle changes
- Dental checkups
Some of these methods work great, while others are not recommended. For instance, toothpaste and mouthwash are not ideal for removing plaque, but dental checkups and brushing your teeth are necessary for removing plaque and overall dental health.
You need to brush your teeth. You’ve probably heard that since you were a kid, but it’s true. Toothbrushing gets rid of plaque that stuck to your teeth.
The ADA recommends you brush your teeth twice a day, and I’m inclined to agree.
Caution: It’s not a good idea to brush your teeth immediately after a meal. While there are still a lot of food particles and juices left in your mouth, you may be brushing acidic elements into your teeth, potentially damaging your tooth enamel.
Wait for a half-hour for your saliva to clear out your mouth of these acids. Then, brush to your heart’s content.
What makes the best toothbrush?
- Electric toothbrushes are better than manual toothbrushes. Electric (or sonic) toothbrushes reach more plaque and offer more strokes per minute than a human hand could achieve with a manual toothbrush.
- Soft bristles are better than hard bristles. Though hard bristles may remove marginally more plaque than soft bristles, hard bristles also harm your tooth enamel and your gums. Damaging your gum line and tooth enamel like this is out of the question.
- Three-sided toothbrushes achieve a superior clean in under half the time. Triple Bristle designed its unique and effective three-sided toothbrush to give people more cleaning power in less time.
- New brush heads need to be purchased every 2-4 months or after you’ve been sick. When your toothbrush’s bristles are frayed, they are much less effective. Click here to purchase new heads for your Triple Bristle toothbrush. We also offer Triple Bristle heads that can be placed on Sonicare® brand toothbrushes!
Flossing removes plaque and food particles from in between your teeth. Research shows that flossing is critical for plaque removal between those pearly whites.
Water flossing and interdental brushes also work for cleaning in between teeth. Any way you do it, make sure you clean in between your back teeth as well as your front teeth.
Pro tip: Floss before you brush. Click here to read why.
The ideal floss is:
- Not coated with Teflon
Triple Bristle offers a mint-flavored, PTFE dental tape/floss that glides easily in between your teeth, in our online store.
Click here to learn how to floss, step-by-step!
3. Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is when you swish coconut oil around your mouth, then spit it into the trash after 20-60 seconds.
The temperature in your mouth turns coconut oil into a liquid. But you spit it into the trash because it turns into a solid at room temperature.
Not only is coconut oil an anti-inflammatory pain reliever, research shows that coconut oil pulling can wash away plaque and food particles missed by floss and toothbrush.
4. Baking Soda
Baking soda is good at plaque removal because it’s a natural cleanser and a mild abrasive, meaning it’s good for scrubbing.
Some say to brush with a little baking soda on your toothbrush while others suggest making a homemade mouthwash with baking soda. Ultimately, if you want to use baking soda for plaque removal, look for baking soda as an ingredient in your toothpaste.
Toothpastes containing baking soda seem to contribute to more plaque removal than non-baking soda toothpastes.
Antibacterial mouthwash is not great for your overall health.
True, mouthwashes may have an antimicrobial effect on harmful bacteria. However, at the same time, mouthwashes may kill beneficial bacteria. When these good bacteria die, there may be harmful shifts in your oral microbiome, resulting in more acidic saliva.
If you are worried about an unhealthy oral microbiome, click here to learn about dental probiotics, meaning beneficial bacteria you can reintroduce to your oral cavity.
The main purpose of mouthwash should be to rinse away excess food particles and freshen breath.
Opt for mouthwashes that are not antibacterial. Simply rinsing your mouth with water after a meal may reduce food particles in your mouth that could otherwise lead to more plaque formation.
Not all toothpastes help remove plaque. It is typically the act of brushing your teeth that removes most of the plaque, not the toothpaste.
A 2016 systematic review concluded that “toothbrushing with [toothpaste] does not provide an added effect for the removal of dental plaque.”
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, but the main reason for this is to help remineralize tooth decay, not remove more plaque.
Toothpaste ingredients that may help remove/prevent plaque:
- Baking soda
- Tea tree oil
- Sodium pyrophosphate
However, triclosan is a controversial toothpaste ingredient that may harm your immune system and hormone regulation.
Is toothpaste necessary? Toothpaste is not technically necessary for oral health; it’s a polishing agent that can offer a few added benefits. A hydroxyapatite or fluoride toothpaste can remineralize tooth enamel, while other toothpastes are beneficial for gum health.
7. Lifestyle Changes
Adopt these 7 lifestyle changes to prevent plaque and tartar formation:
- Quit smoking.
- Cut back on sugary foods. Harmful bacteria in your mouth feed off of sugars and starches.
- Steer clear of acidic foods. Too much acid in your diet may contribute to the erosion of your tooth enamel, weakening your teeth.
- Eat crunchy vegetables that encourage saliva production to wash away excess food particles.
- Be cautious drinking alcohol, which can cause dry mouth.
- Chew xylitol gum after a meal. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is naturally sweet but doesn’t feed harmful bacteria. Gum promotes saliva production.
- Practice nasal breathing. Inhaling through your nose is good for your health in general, but mouth breathing turns your teeth into dust filters and may contribute to dry mouth.
8. Dental Checkups
Twice-yearly dental checkups are important for your oral care and even your overall health.
Dental professionals can safely and effectively remove plaque and tartar in hard-to-reach places within the oral cavity.
Your dentist is also able to catch early signs of periodontal disease and other issues before they become major problems.
When left untreated, oral health problems may affect your overall health. Good dental health is necessary for a good quality of life.
Plaque Removal Methods to Avoid
You can safely remove plaque at home. (Not tartar!) All you need to do is floss and brush your teeth to remove plaque — and visit a dental hygienist twice a year.
There are some dangerous lies swimming around out there about plaque and tartar removal. We’re here to help.
Avoid the following plaque removal methods, because they are dangerous or have no basis in science:
- At-home teeth cleaners — Recently, devices that look like professional dental tools (such as plaque scrapers) have been sold as at-home plaque and/or tartar removers. Stick to floss and a toothbrush for plaque removal, and leave the tartar scraping to dental care professionals so you don’t irreparably damage your teeth.
- Charcoal toothpaste — These black toothpastes are marketed as tartar-control toothpastes, but they have not been proven to be effective or safe.
- Orange peels — Do not rub orange peels or an orange peel paste on your teeth or gums. Plaque damages teeth by releasing acids which cause tooth decay. Why would rubbing even more acid into your teeth be good for your dental health? Yes, orange peels (and other citrus fruits) are antibacterial. But rubbing acid into your teeth may damage your tooth enamel and inflame your gums.
- Vinegar — Similar to oranges, vinegars are very acidic. You may be able to dilute apple cider vinegar or white vinegar enough so it does no lasting damage to your teeth, but at that point, you’re losing a lot of the plaque removing power, so why bother? Stick to flossing and brushing.
- Antibacterial mouthwash — Mouthwash that kills bacteria may prevent some plaque formation, but the antibacterial elements will also kill good bacteria. When antibacterial mouthwash kills beneficial bacteria in your mouth, your oral microbiome suffers. A healthy oral microbiome (balance of microorganisms living in your oral cavity) is important to keep your mouth healthy.
You should remove plaque by flossing and brushing. You should visit your dentist regularly. You should eat a healthy diet and stay away from excess sugars and starches. You may even want to try coconut oil pulling. All these will help remove and prevent plaque.
Steer clear of the scams and let your dentist remove tartar.
- Kulkarni, P., Singh, D. K., & Jalaluddin, M. (2017). Comparison of efficacy of manual and powered toothbrushes in plaque control and gingival inflammation: A clinical study among the population of East Indian Region. Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry, 7(4), 168. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5558249/
- Azcarate-Velázquez, F., Garrido-Serrano, R., Castillo-Dalí, G., Serrera-Figallo, M. A., Gañán-Calvo, A., & Torres-Lagares, D. (2017). Effectiveness of flossing loops in the control of the gingival health. Journal of clinical and experimental dentistry, 9(6), e756. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5474330/
- Kiran, S. D., Ghiya, K., Makwani, D., Bhatt, R., Patel, M., & Srivastava, M. (2018). Comparison of Plaque Removal Efficacy of a Novel Flossing Agent with the Conventional Floss: A Clinical Study. International Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry, 11(6), 474. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6611534/
- Shanbhag, V. K. L. (2017). Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene–A review. Journal of traditional and complementary medicine, 7(1), 106-109. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5198813/
- Bosma, M. L., Milleman, K. R., Akwagyiram, I., Targett, D., & Milleman, J. L. (2018). A randomised controlled trial to evaluate the plaque removal efficacy of sodium bicarbonate dentifrices in a single brushing clinical model. BDJ open, 4(1), 1-5.Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5986814/
- Bescos, R., Ashworth, A., Cutler, C., Brookes, Z. L., Belfield, L., Rodiles, A., … & White, D. (2020). Effects of Chlorhexidine mouthwash on the oral microbiome. Scientific Reports, 10(1), 1-8. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7093448/
- Valkenburg, C., Slot, D. E., Bakker, E. W., & Van der Weijden, F. A. (2016). Does dentifrice use help to remove plaque? A systematic review. Journal of clinical periodontology, 43(12), 1050-1058. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27513809/
- Lundberg, J. O. N., Settergren, G., Gelinder, S., Lundberg, J. M., Alving, K., & Weitzberg, E. (1996). Inhalation of nasally derived nitric oxide modulates pulmonary function in humans. Acta physiologica scandinavica, 158(4), 343-347. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8971255/Brooks, J. K., Bashirelahi, N., & Reynolds, M. A.
- (2017). Charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices: a literature review. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 148(9), 661-670. Abstract: https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(17)30412-9/fulltext