Black Tartar on Teeth: What Is It & How to Prevent It


Black tartar on teeth occurs as a result of plaque buildup and can lead to gum disease and other health conditions. Black tartar along your gumline can be removed by your dentist, and you can help prevent it from forming again with good oral hygiene habits. Learn more about black tartar on teeth and why it’s so important to brush, floss and see your dentist regularly.

What Is That Black Spot on My Teeth?

If you have black spots on your teeth along the gumline, it might be black tartar, aka dental calculus. Bacteria buildup on the gum lines create plaque. When plaque stays on the teeth, it hardens and becomes tartar. Your tartar can turn black when it remains untreated, creating black stains along the gumline.

Cavities can also cause black spots on and between your teeth, while black tartar is typically along the bottom of the teeth by your gums. See your dentist to determine if the black spots on your teeth are cavities or black tartar.

What Is the Difference Between Black Tartar and Plaque?

Plaque is a sticky film containing bacteria that settles on and in between teeth. Plaque bacteria produce acid that can destroy tooth enamel, leading to sensitivity and decay. When plaque is left on the teeth, it hardens into tartar. Tartar can turn black from food stains and over time when left on the teeth.

Brushing and flossing consistently are key to avoiding plaque buildup and helping prevent tartar from forming.

Is Black Tartar a Cavity?

Black plaque or tartar and cavities are not the same, but they can both cause black spots on your teeth. Cavities—tiny openings or holes on the surface of your teeth—stem from weakened enamel and tooth decay and can form anywhere on the tooth surface. Tartar forms along the gumline or in between teeth and can lead to cavities.

See your dentist to learn if you have black tartar or a cavity.

Black plaque spot on teeth

What Happens if Tartar Is Not Removed?

Untreated tartar can cause tooth discoloration and gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis. Gum disease has been linked to heart disease and other health problems. Thus, it’s imperative to brush regularly with a soft-bristled brush and a fluoride toothpaste that works to control tartar.

Can You Remove Black Tartar Yourself?

Black tartar can only be removed by a dental professional. If you have black tartar already, see your dentist for a specialty cleaning, then follow up regularly to help prevent black tartar from forming on your teeth and gumlines again.

What Foods Contribute to Black Tartar on Teeth?

Several common foods and beverages can increase plaque buildup and contribute to black tartar on teeth. These include starches like bread and potato chips, as well as citrus and dried fruits. Candy, cakes, soft drinks and other high-sugar foods can also facilitate plaque buildup, which leads to tartar.

If you smoke or drink coffee, alcohol, or red wine, you are likely to experience plaque buildup or stains on your teeth. Doing those things with regularity can further impact gum health if you fail to brush and floss while receiving dental care. So, do not forget to brush your teeth after a night out on the town!

How Do You Prevent Black Tartar on Teeth?

To help prevent black tartar and keep your gums healthy, brush twice a day and floss once a day to keep your gums and teeth in tip-top shape. Even young people can get plaque and tartar buildup, so parents, get your kids brushing and flossing early and often!

Man flossing teeth to prevent black tartar on teeth

How Else Can You Fight Plaque?

Water flossers clean between your teeth and can be a good option for people who have trouble with traditional flossing. Some mouthwash can help reduce plaque buildup, as well. Still, these should not be hard substitutes for daily brushing and flossing. Rather, they should be complementary.

Can Baking Soda Remove Black Tartar?

Baking soda itself cannot remove black tartar. However, it neutralizes harmful acids that can cause cavities and raises the oral pH to help restore minerals. ARM & HAMMER™ Toothpastes also remove up to 3 times more plaque in hard-to-reach areas compared to a leading toothpaste.

Fight Plaque and Tartar with ARM & HAMMER™ Toothpaste

Give your brushing a boost by using ARM & HAMMER™ toothpastes. Control pesky plaque buildup to help avoid black tartar on teeth.

More Resources to Keep Your Teeth and Gums Looking and Feeling Good

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