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I have what I believe is quite bad tartar (well I'm hoping that it is not decay) on my front teeth, I can see this above the gum line a little, bit when I floss it goes back quite alot under my gum line. I am pertrified of the dentist, even though I know that I need to go. How hard is this to get rid of, and how do I know that it is tartar and not decay? It is rather dark brown to black and I can feel it clicking when I feel it with my fingernail. I am also embarrassed to go to the dentist wondering what they will think of my dental hygiene. Someone told my that they will just pull my teeth out.   Many thanks!

Thank you for visiting our web site and for your insightful questions. Since you have not visited the dentist in a while, it is quite possible that you do have excess tarter, or calculus buildup on your teeth. When calculus builds up underneath the gums, it can slowly darken over the course of a couple years to brown or black. I do strongly recommend that you visit a dentist soon to rule out other possibilities such as cavities and to limit gum recession by getting your teeth cleaned. As a dentist, I personally clean heavy tartar off of your teeth with a new Ultrasonic cleaner which literally vibrates the debris right off of your teeth! Not only is this more comfortable for you, but the ultrasonic actually cleans below the gums where tartar such as yours exists.  Though I know it is difficult for you to visit the dentist, please do not feel too embarrassed. We see patients every day who have not visited the dentist in years, and we are very understanding of your immediate health needs! And do not worry, Rose. Even if the dark spots are cavities, they can still be replaced with tooth colored restorations and your teeth WILL be saved. I wish you the best of luck with your oral health care. If you haven't already, you may want to visit our page on Ultrasonic cleaning at to learn more about this great new device. Please do not hesitate to e-mail or call our office with any other questions you might have, or to even set up an appointment.

If I have tartar under my gums that I can see a fair way back when I floss does this mean that my roots are dead, as I saw in the picture link below?

Fortunately, calculus is a mineralization which occurs on the exterior of your teeth and will not cause your teeth to die. I know the black appearance of this material must be disturbing to you, but it can be removed and your teeth remain intact. The risks one faces with leaving the tartar in place however, include increased risk of cavities and gum recession, as I mentioned before. The photo link you sent me is definitely an advanced state of calculus buildup and is an optimal case for an ultrasonic cleaning by the dentist.


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Last revised: January 03, 2005.