Can flossing remove tartar? Know the limitations of your floss

Can flossing remove tartar

Flossing is unfortunately a forgotten act and most people don’t realize how important it is until it is too late.

Flossing is probably the only thing that can clean the dark, covered areas between the teeth. However, it has its limitations.

One important question you should ask yourself is: “Can Flossing Remove Tartar?” The answer is a definite NO.

Let’s first understand what is tartar and how it is formed.

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What is Tartar?

When food debris and remnants get stuck on and between the teeth, they become infested with loads of bacteria and micro-organisms. These micro-organisms secrete acids that dissolve the outer layer of the teeth (called the enamel) which is made almost entirely of Calcium and Fluoride.

Within a few days, this layer thickens and forms a film on the surface of the teeth called plaque.

It is important to remove this plaque build up by either brushing, flossing and other methods within 3 days. Otherwise it begins to attract minerals that are present in the saliva (mainly Calcium) which means that this plaque starts to harden.

Eventually the entire plaque film hardens and forms calculus, which is commonly known as Tartar.

So basically Tartar is food remnants left uncleaned for a while until they harden.

Can dental floss remove Tartar?

Tartar is quite different from plaque. Plaque is thin and soft, so your toothbrush and floss could definitely remove most (if not all) of it. However, when it hardens and turns to tartar, it is a whole different matter.

Tartar is very hard and unfortunately it cannot be removed by brushing or flossing. A dentist with the right equipment is literally the only professional that can successfully do heavy tartar removal.

In other words, a visit to the dentist is inevitable and the answer to your question “can flossing remove tartar?” The answer is still no.

This of course is speaking of traditional string floss, which simply does not have the sufficient strength to break down the heavily clinging tartar deposits from the teeth.

But what about other means of flossing? Let’s look at how to remove Tartar from teeth without dentist assistance.

Does water floss remove Tartar?

There is no doubt that water flossers are trending nowadays and quite a lot of people are beginning to discard the good old string floss for a more modern version. And rightfully so especially once you learn that water flossers are:

  • much more effective and less damaging to the teeth,
  • are easier to use for most people, and
  • that is proven by years of research to work effectively.

However, the encounter of water flossers with tartar is where they meet their match.

While manufacturers claim that water flossers can remove most or all of tartar deposits, that is simply not true and scientifically impossible.

Water flossing is good, but a Dentist is better

Some water flossers may have the sufficient strength and power to remove only the superficial layers of tartar (in other words, only minor flakes are removed).  But again nothing could break the heavy bond between the tartar and the teeth except the professional cleaning equipment of the dentist.

This piece of equipment is called an ultrasonic scaler. It is made of a handle with a metallic tip attached to it that could be changed when needed. This tip vibrates at supersonic speed (hence the name ultrasonic scaler) and is the only thing that possesses enough strength to break the link between tartar and teeth.

Leaving them clean and tartar free.

If water flossers (which are the strongest of all the flossing methods by far) are incapable of removing tartar, you would expect other means like interdental brushes or air flossers to not be effective as well.

Dangers of Tartar if left untreated

You may be beginning to rethink the importance of a frequent visit to your dentist for a cleaning session. If you are still not convinced, here are a few dangers of tartar if left unremoved:

  • Tartar is literally swarming with bacteria, and as you learned before these bacteria secrete acids that dissolve the outer layer of the enamel of the teeth. This in turn leads to weakening of the tooth and consequently decay may follow.
  • Not only do these bacteria secrete acids, but they secrete other toxins that cause inflammation of the gums (aka gingivitis). You may begin to complain of bleeding gums and swelling as well.
  • Tartar is the first full proof sign of periodontal disease. While full blown periodontal disease is a very severe condition that takes years to develop, tartar formation is the first sign. It is highly advisable to seek professional help at once.
  • Tartar is mainly deposited on the tooth in two areas, which are the area closest to the gums (known as the neck of the tooth) and in the area between the teeth. Tartar grows steadily and by time, it starts to push away the gums and take their place. This leads to sensitivity especially with hot and cold food and drinks. Eventually lead to receding gums as well.
  • If tartar is left uncleaned for a sufficient amount of time, it not only replaces the gums, it could start to eat away at the bone as well. You could lose mobility of the tooth or the tooth altogether. In fact, periodontal disease (which is always preceded by tartar) is the second most common cause of teeth loss, second only to decay.
  • In most cases, bacteria that cause bad breath are embedded in the tartar. So if you experience bad breath with no apparent cause, it is probably because the organism causing the situation is well hidden within the heavy tartar deposits.

Can flossing remove Tartar completely?

So in other words, it is not a question of “If” but “when” you would need to visit your dentist. The next time you ask “can flossing remove tartar”, you now know the limitations of your oral hygiene weapons. As well as the the inevitability of needing your dentist sooner than you think.

Have You Ever Tried a Water Flosser? 

String floss can be a pain and cause unsightly gum bleeding. A water flosser is more effective in removing plaque and also easy to use. Making it a perfect oral health addition for the family. View our best water flosser buyers guide here. 

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