Black Tartar on Teeth – Cause, Remedies & Prevention

Black tartar on teeth can ruin your whole presentation abilities. These are nothing but black deposits at the base of our teeth. These deposits are pigmented tartar or black tartar. You should visit a dentist immediately if you see such black tartar on teeth as it can be a precursor of severe gum disease.

Plaque is a colorless film of saliva and bacteria that covers our teeth all the time. Plaque is potentially harmless until it calcifies to form tartar/calculus. Tartar can be either supragingival (above the gums) or subgingival (below the gums). Supragingival calculus can be spotted easily as yellowish to tan deposits on our teeth. Subgingival calculus can only be seen if it is massive in size.


Gingiva contains blood vessels and subgingival calculus mixes with the blood contents and appears black to green. Plaque and tartar are a common sight when we fail to visit our dentist for a long time. Black tartar on teeth might look alarming and the only remedy to get rid of tarter is scaling and root planning. Through this article, you will see how black tartar forms, how does it look and how to get rid of it.

The significance of black tartar on teeth

Black tartar is darkly pigmented deposits between the teeth and below the gum line. It is usually not seen unless you delay a dental visit for over a year.

Black tartar is a pigmented form of the traditional yellow tartar that develops on our teeth. Calcification of dental plaque forms yellow or tan colored tartar. Dental plaque is a colorless film coating our teeth so we can’t see the plaque.

When we miss out on cleaning plaque, it hardens and forms tartar. Tartar is a highly porous and calcified deposit. It quickly takes up stains from food and beverages and turns yellow.

In rare cases, we see black pigments on tartar. We see the color change when the tartar below our gums (subgingival tartar) mixes with blood in the gums. Black tartar is an alarming sight. It makes us unattractive. (1)

Its significance is much more than a mere esthetic abnormality. Black tartar is a precursor of a severe gum disease called Periodontitis.

Periodontitis is an aggressive form of destructive gum disease. Once it starts, it first recedes the gum line and then eats away the underlying bone support. As a result, teeth lose support and fall off from their sockets.


Subgingival tartar or tartar below the gums, when not removed, keeps progressing deeper in the gums. There is a thin space between gums and teeth. This space is called gum pocket or gingival sulcus.

Gingival sulcus contains a fluid known as gingival crevicular fluid. This fluid comprises a lot of minerals and blood products. As the tartar keeps progressing deeper in the gum pocket, it tears away blood vessels in the gum.

Blood contains proteins and iron pigments. When blood oozes out from the torn vessels in the gum pocket, it comes in contact with tartar.

Now, the tartar that was white or yellow takes up iron pigments from the blood. It also mixes with the minerals of gingival crevicular fluid. The net byproduct of these interactions is black tartar.


Black tartar on teeth looks like the regular yellow colored tartar. The only difference is the color. The signs and symptoms of black tartar formation are-

  • Red swollen gums
  • Gums easily bleed when touched
  • Bad breath
  • Black stains on the base of the teeth
  • Hardshell like black deposits all over the teeth
  • A gap between the teeth
  • Loose teeth in the sockets

Conventional treatment

There is only one conventional treatment for black tartar removal, i.e., scaling and root planning or dental debridement.

Scaling and root planning

The dentist or dental hygienist cleans the plaque through a deep-cleaning method called scaling and root planning. Scaling scrapes off the black tartar from above and below the gum line.

Root planning involves using specialized instruments to remove tough calculus and bacteria deposits along the root surfaces under local anesthesia.

After root planning, you may experience some temporary sensitivity to cold foods/drinks. The infected gums heal over time and may expose a little part of the root surfaces. If this occurs, you can use toothpaste for sensitive teeth. (2)

Home remedies to prevent the formation of black tartar

Home remedies to prevent black tartar formation are simple. You can do the following to keep black tartar and other gum problems at bay.

  • Brush your teeth twice daily. Brushing after every meal is also important to minimize plaque accumulation.
  • In some regions of the teeth, you may be advised to use an interdental brush.
  • Floss every day.
  • Visit the dentist once a year for gum evaluation and cleaning.
  • Don’t use tobacco products like cigarettes.

Nip it in the bud – Preventing tartar accumulation

If we prevent tartar accumulation, then there will be no formation of black tartar on teeth. It is like nipping the problem in the bud. Following procedures can be done to avoid tartar accumulation.

Treatment of rotated and crooked teeth

It is difficult to clean in between rotated teeth or crooked and misshapen teeth because there is lack of space. Therefore, the gums around such teeth are more prone to plaque accumulation and tartar formation.

Orthodontic treatment or extraction of such crooked teeth is necessary to protect the gums. Once the teeth alignment is corrected, scaling should be done. Proper oral hygiene maintenance is required after that.

You should follow good oral hygiene such as brush twice daily, floss and use of an antibacterial mouthwash. You can use an orthodontic or electric toothbrush while undergoing a dental treatment. (3)

Fixing a loose prosthesis

When you have a prosthesis or artificial crowns in our mouth, it acts as a hub for an accumulation of plaque and tartar. Over that, if the prosthesis doesn’t fit as snugly as the natural tooth on the gums, there may be tartar formation around it.

The gap between the prosthesis and gums is a hub for bacteria. Tartar formation around it is a common sight. You should visit our dentist if you have a loose crown or a gap between your artificial and natural teeth.


Final words

Remember that your gums and underlying bone support all your teeth in place, and a beautiful smile starts with healthy gums. Although black tartar on teeth looks severe and terrible, some people even relate it to cancer. But those are all myths and folklore.

Black tartar on teeth is nothing but your regular yellow-colored teeth deposits taking up black iron pigments from the blood. The only serious issue related to black tartar is Periodontitis.

Therefore, as soon as you see the formation of black tartar, you should see a dentist immediately and get it removed. Black tartar is easily cleaned with professional instruments, so there is no need to panic.


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