Black Tartar on Teeth: Should I Be Concerned?

Should I be concerned about black tartar on my teeth?

Seeing black buildup at the base of teeth can be a shocking and somewhat off-putting sight. If the buildup is at or near the gum line, the issue is likely black tartar buildup. Naturally, patients who see black tartar buildup in their mouths and on their teeth that haven’t experienced the condition before may conclude that something major is happening within their mouth that needs to be corrected immediately. And while the issue should be taken seriously, it’s not the sign of a problem that should immediately cause patients to overly panic.

To help patients understand what black tartar is, how it got on their teeth, and what to do to correct this issue, let’s explore the origin of tartar and dental plaque.

Where Black Tartar on Teeth Originates

Black tartar starts off in much the same way other varieties of tartar do, with plaque. Bacterial waste and food debris combine with saliva to form a white or yellow-ish layer on and in between teeth. This is common dental plaque. Plaque can generally be removed with regular brushing and flossing, but left to its own devices, plaque acts as an area for bacteria to grow and thrive.

As plaque continues to go untreated, it will eventually harden. This is where the transition from plaque to tartar takes place. Once tartar is formed, it usually maintains the same white or yellow-ish color, and settles near or just below the gum line. If tartar is still left untreated, it can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, receding gums, gingivitis, and additional damage to teeth. Most importantly, once plaque makes the transition to tartar, it is more difficult to remove from teeth, and requires the intervention of a dentist to fully remove the buildup.

What Causes the Color to Change?

Tartar changes color in response to several different factors. The first is time. Simply put, any tartar left long enough will eventually turn darker. But there are additional external factors that will change the color of tartar from white or yellow to black. For instance, regularly drinking dark colored beverages — such as coffee, soda, and red wine — will discolor tartar until it turns black. The same is true for certain foods, such as chocolate. The chemicals in cigarette smoke from regular smoking will also contribute to the creation of black tartar on teeth.

As mentioned, tartar can work its way below the gum line and begin causing more serious damage to patient’s gums and teeth. If this happens, blood from damaged gums can run over the tartar spots, causing them to turn black. This is also a sign that a tartar issue is becoming much more serious, and will need to be looked at much sooner.

How to Treat and Avoid Black Tartar on Teeth

Taking care of black tartar is usually imperative for patients, for aesthetic purposes as well as for health reasons. As mentioned, once plaque has progressed to the tartar phase, and once that tartar has turned black, the only way to truly treat it is by visiting a dental professional, such as the team at Treasured Smiles.

Dentists will first try to remove the tartar using specialized tools, such as hand scalers, which are specially designed to scrape away at dental tartar. If the tartar is particularly hardened, a dentist will utilize ultrasonic instruments to blast the tartar with vibrations, causing the tartar to fracture and break apart before cleaning it from a patient’s teeth.

If a dentist is able to remove the totality of the tartar from a patient’s teeth, and there isn’t any additional damage that needs to be addressed, there are a few habits patients can adopt to help avoid black tartar in the future:

  • Brush and floss teeth regularly (2–3 times daily), using a fluoridated toothpaste when brushing
  • Try to avoid foods that will increase bacteria growth, such as sugary treats. Healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables, will help maintain good oral hygiene
  • Try to limit smoking, as it can exacerbate issues caused by increased tartar buildup, as well as create additional oral hygiene issues
  • Schedule regular dental cleanings and annual dental exams with dental professionals, as recommended by a dentist, so that teeth and gum health can be regularly monitored and maintained

If you’re a central Illinois resident, looking for dental specialist with top quality care and customer service, look to the team at Treasured Smiles Adult and Cosmetic Dentistry of Frankfurt. Providing the community with high-quality professional dental services from an experienced, committed staff, Treasured Smiles Adult and Cosmetic Dentistry is dedicated to making each patient feel welcome, safe, and respected. Reach out to the team at Treasured Smiles Adult and Cosmetic Dentistry today to schedule your next dental service appointment.