Can Dental Plaque Be Removed?

This blog post will address the question, “can dental plaque be removed” and cover topics like what is plaque and what causes it, symptoms of plaque, complications of plaque and the various preventive strategies to avoid plaque and tartar buildup.

Can Dental Plaque Be Removed?

Daily brushing, two times at least for two minutes each and daily flossing, can remove plaque and prevent its buildup. 

If you do not brush and floss daily, the plaque accumulates and leads to formation of hard calcified mass called Tartar.

Plaque can be removed at home with proper brushing and flossing and maintaining a good oral hygiene whereas tartar being hard and calcified, needs a dental professional for its removal.

Everything You Need To Know About Plaque

What is plaque?

Plaque is a sticky bacterial film that accumulates on the teeth and breaks down the food debris or food remnants to produce acids.

These acids weaken the outer layer of your teeth called enamel and increase the risk of developing cavities and gingivitis.

If plaque develops under the gums, it attacks the tooth roots and may break the tooth supporting bones. 

Plaque, if left undisturbed, develops into a hard calcified structure called tartar or calculus. 

Who Is More Prone To Develop Plaque?

Plaque is commonly developed in all individuals but some may be more prone to developing and accumulating it, resulting in higher chances of cavities and decay.

Consumption of Sugar

Those who consume a lot of sugary or starchy foods and drinks are at higher risk of developing plaque and cavities from it.

Xerostomia (Dry Mouth)

Xerostomia, also called dry mouth, is a condition in which saliva production is significantly reduced in the mouth.

As saliva is a natural cleanser of the mouth, reduction in its quantity hampers the flushing of food debris that leads to plaque buildup.


According to a study published in the American Society for Microbiology Journals, smoking not only causes bacterial accumulation and plaque formation but also affects the host response to the bacterial colonization.

The study reports that smoking increases the risk of developing periodontal diseases and plaque and tartar buildup is more in smokers than non-smokers.

How Do I Know That I Have Plaque?

A fuzzy feeling on the teeth, chronic bad breath with red, tender and swollen gums that often bleed during or after brushing, are top signs that you have plaque buildup in your mouth.

What are the complications of plaque?

Plaque, if left undisturbed and is not removed due to poor oral hygiene, develops into a hard, calcified mass called tartar.

Plaque and tartar can cause complications like:

  • Tooth decay or dental caries
  • Gum and Periodontal diseases
  • Tooth infection
  • Tooth weakening and loss

How is plaque managed or treated?

Plaque can be managed with good oral hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing. 

Tartar can only be removed by a dental professional.

Dental sealants, dry mouth medications, fluoride treatments, prescription toothpaste or chlorhexidine mouthwash can be advised by your dentists depending upon your signs and symptoms.

When should I go to my dentist?

It is important to be watchful of your symptoms and visit your dentist if you experience:

  • Bad breath from a long time
  • Swelling on the face
  • Pain and loosening of the tooth
  • Red, swollen, tender and bleeding gums
  • Sensitivity in the tooth on eating or drinking hot or cold.

Removing Plaque At Home: Points To Consider

Brushing Frequency

It is recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA) to  brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time with a toothpaste containing fluoride. 

It is recommended to brush your teeth twice a day, once in the morning, just after waking up and once at night, just before going to bed.

You must also clean your teeth and gums, each time after you have food but not with a toothbrush. Simple rinse with water is considered good for overall oral health and hygiene and removes the risk of developing plaque.

While considering when to brush your teeth, you must keep in mind the type of food you just had. 

Do not brush immediately after having any acidic food or drink as these acids weaken tooth enamel, and brushing immediately can cause enamel wearing or erosion making your teeth more susceptible to developing cavities.

Infants and Children: When and How To Brush To Prevent Plaque Formation?

It is important for infants and children to maintain good oral hygiene for a good overall health and development and prevent plaque buildup.

Use a soft-bristled infant toothbrush with a rice grain size of fluoride toothpaste for brushing their teeth.

Children 3 to 6 years old can brush their teeth twice a day, once in the morning and once at night, for 2 minutes each time using a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste.

It is important to supervise the brushing sessions of Infants and children, to prevent them from swallowing the fluoride toothpaste.

Brushing Technique

Here is how you can brush your teeth with correct technique to avoid plaque and tartar buildup:

  1. Use a small amount of water to lubricate your brush. 
  1. Put a small, pea-size amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush head.
  1. At about a 45-degree angle to your gums , place the toothbrush into your mouth 
  1. Use gentle, short strokes to brush your front teeth.
  1. Brush the outside surfaces as well as the back molars and upper areas of your chewing surfaces.
  1. Brush the inside surfaces of both top and bottom front teeth by flipping your toothbrush upside down.
  1. Brush your tongue to get rid of any bacteria or plaque.
  1. Spit out the remnants of toothpaste, saliva, and water into a clean sink. 
  1. Rinse your mouth with cold water and you are done.

Choose An Appropriate Toothbrush

Choosing an appropriate toothbrush is the first and most important step towards toothbrushing. Yet, this is neglected by most of the people.

Toothbrushes with more rounded bristles are soft to your teeth and are considered to be an ideal toothbrush to use for removing plaque and tartar buildup.

Do Not Immediately Brush after Eating Acidic Foods

You must wait for 30 minutes to one hour after consumption of acidic foods and drinks. The acid in the food or drink otherwise may erode the enamel layer and regular habit may cause exposed dentin leading to pain and sensitivity and increased risk of developing cavities.

Use Gentle and Short Strokes When Brushing Your Teeth

Use gentle, short strokes to brush your front teeth and thoroughly clean your mouth without abrading the enamel.

Brush the outside surfaces as well as the back molars and upper areas of your chewing surfaces. Brush the inside surfaces of both top and bottom front teeth by flipping your toothbrush upside down.

Brush your tongue to get rid of any bacteria or plaque.

Use A Fluoride Toothpaste

Fluoride can greatly help achieve oral and dental health by strengthening the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to tooth decay. 

Fluoride reduces the amount of acid produced by the plaque and keeps teeth stronger.

Floss Daily To Get Maximum Benefits Out Of Tooth Brushing

Many people, despite knowing the benefits of flossing daily, just neglect it.

According to a study, flossing is highly effective in reducing the interproximal caries risk by removing plaque and tartar buildup.

Daily floss can help stimulate your gums and reduce plaque leading to lesser inflammation risk.

Consider Mouthwash

Therapeutic mouthwashes as the name suggests have therapeutic action and control dental conditions like gingivitis, tooth decay and periodontal diseases. They also help remove halitosis.

Therapeutic Mouthwashes contain ADA listed active ingredients such as fluoride, peroxide, essential oils, cetylpyridinium chloride, and chlorhexidine, all regulated by the FDA.

See Your Dentist At Least Twice A Year

It is important to get your oral health checked twice every year with an interval of 6 months between two visits.

Your dentist can help remove calculus and locate cavities and will also be able to spot potential oral health issues, if any, and offer treatment solutions.

Coconut Oil Rinse

A study concluded coconut oil pulling or swishing in the mouth to be an effective way to reduce plaque buildup on the teeth resulting in lighter shade on your teeth.

Plaque Vs. Tartar: What Are The Key Differences?

Both plaque and tartar are responsible for causing tooth decay and other dental and periodontal diseases, with some key differences between them being:

Difference In The Buildup Process

Plaque buildup continuously due to accumulation of food remnants each time after you eat or drink, commonly due to the sugary foods and drinks.

Tartar buildup only when plaque is left undisturbed and poor oral hygiene is followed. Tartar is actually a hardened plaque.

Difference In Appearances

Plaque is colorless, difficult to see and gives a fuzzy feeling on the teeth.

Tartar is yellow or brown in color and generally feels rough.

Difference In Removal

While plaque can be removed with simple brushing and flossing, tartar needs a dental professional for its removal

How Does Tartar Affect Teeth And Gums?

Plaque develops into tartar when you miss out on brushing and flossing frequently.

Once tartar is formed, it becomes difficult to brush and floss it away and also oral hygiene deteriorates leading to cavities and tooth decay.

Tartar that forms above the gum line, irritates the gum and may progress to gingivitis and other periodontal diseases.


This blog post addressed the question, “can dental plaque be removed”. We understood what plaque is and what causes it, symptoms of plaque, complications of plaque and the various preventive strategies to avoid plaque and tartar buildup.

The article outlined the basic differences between plaque and tartar, correct brushing technique and natural remedies to avoid plaque and tartar buildup.


Can I Scrape Plaque Off My Teeth?

No, you should not scrape plaque off your teeth at home as plaque scrapers are sharp instruments and you might end up damaging your gum and periodontal tissues.

You should always consult your dentist if you experience any fuzziness and irritation in your teeth or gums.

How Can I Remove Hard Plaque From My Teeth Without Going To The Dentist?

To remove the hard plaque also called tartar without going to the dentist is an impossible task. However, you can still try by gargling with a mixture containing two tablespoons of white vinegar in a cup of lukewarm water with dissolved salts.

It might soften the hard tartar and then you can brush it off.

Can Electric Toothbrush Remove Tartar?

Studies have shown electric toothbrushes to be better at removing plaque than manual toothbrushes. 

Electric toothbrush with an ADA seal of acceptance is the best you can use to remove plaque and tartar buildup.

Can You Remove Tartar At Home?

There are many natural home remedies available on the internet that claim to remove tartar at home, without even going to a dentist.

It is however recommended to visit your dentist as a professional can help you achieve the result you want without any damage to your mouth.

Is there a mouthwash that dissolves plaque?

Colgate Total Pro-Shield is a mouthwash that kills germs for up to 12 hours after eating a meal and therefore highly effective in reducing plaque buildup.


Dental Plaque. (2020)

How To Remove Plaque. (2019)

Plaque And Tartar. Colgate

Dangerous At Home Plaque Scrapers

Kobayashi, D., Takahashi, O., & Shimbo, T. (2019). Frequency of daily tooth brushing and development of any type of malignancy. Anticancer research, 39(8), 4415-4421.

Attin, Thomas, and Else Hornecker. “Tooth brushing and oral health: how frequently and when should tooth brushing be performed?.” Oral health & preventive dentistry 3.3 (2005).

How Often Should You Brush Your Teeth? (2021)

11 Ways to Keep Your Teeth Healthy. (2019)

Natural Remedies. (2018)

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