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Can You Clean Teeth at Home with Dental Kits?

Have you seen dental kits for sale that promise to give you all the tools you need to clean your teeth, just like a dentist, at home? Tempted? We don’t blame you! After all, if like most people (our clients excluded), you dread going to the dentist, using a professional dental kit might seem like an obvious way to take better care of your teeth and gums.  

Removing plaque is certainly key to keeping your teeth looking white and your gums healthy. When you eat or drink, bacteria in plaque produce acids which break down enamel and damage gum tissue. Over time, plaque build up causes an increase in the acids released, which can lead to tooth decay, gum recession, gum disease and eventually, tooth loss. 

However, I challenge you to find a UK dentist registered with the General Dental Council (GDC) that recommends using the dental tools supplied in most dental kits. This post reviews the most dangerous dental kit tools and the safest alternatives you can use at home.

What Tools Are in Professional Dental Kits?

A wide variety of dental kits are available, and if you buy one, you are better off with a simple oral care kit. These typically contain a stainless steel pick and scaler, a hard plastic scaler, a tongue scraper and a dental mirror. Aside from the stainless steel pick and scraper, the other tools are all perfectly safe to use and can certainly help to maintain whiter teeth and keep gums healthy — but only if you also brush and floss properly twice a day. 

The real concern is extensive training is required to learn the correct way to use many of the tools in dental kits without causing damage. When you consider that training to become a dental hygienist takes at least two years, it is not surprising that you can cause considerable harm if you don’t know what you’re doing when you use the tools supplied in dental kits. 

Let’s review the two main tools you find in dental kits and the safest alternatives. 

Dental steel pick 

These may look relatively easy to use, but just one slip can cause severe trauma to gum tissue. The end of these picks are very sharp and can pierce deeply into the tissue and lead to painful gum inflammation, infections and gum recession. A good alternative is a plastic pick. They are more flexible, reducing the possibility of slipping and will not be sharp enough to pierce gum tissue deeply.   

The safest alternative to a dental steel pick is a water pick, also called a water flosser or oral irrigator. These work by generating a high-power stream of pulsating water that cleans between teeth and gums. 

Dental steel scraper tool 

Metal dental tartar scrapers, also called plaque scrapers or calculus removers, have sharp edges which can easily cut away chunks of gum tissue. This can cause irreversible damage. Additionally, instead of removing plaque, when these tools are not used correctly, you can push it underneath the gum line, which can cause gumline cavities. Unless you are a trained dental hygienist or dentist, using these tools is highly likely to increase the risk of infections, gum recession and even tooth loss.  

The safest alternative to a dental steel scraper tool is a plastic scraper. However, we would never recommend using plastic scrapers, as they can cause gum irritation and increase the potential for gum recession.  

Safe Plaque Removal Tools to Use at Home

As boring as it is, brushing and flossing twice daily is the safest and most effective way to remove tartar and plaque from teeth and keep your gums healthy. However, a build up of calculus (hardened plaque) can only be safely removed by a dental hygienist or a dentist.  

Here are the top three dental tools you can use to help maintain healthy teeth and gums:

Electric toothbrush

An electric toothbrush is one of the most effective ways to remove plaque and keep gums healthy. The main benefit of an electric toothbrush is that you will not damage your gums with excessive brushing. And don’t be drawn in by expensive price tags. Although expensive electric toothbrushes may have more functionality, a basic one will do a perfectly good job. 

If you don’t like electric toothbrushes, then make sure you use a soft bristle toothbrush. The most important thing is to brush your teeth for two minutes in the morning and before bed, and ideally after every meal. 

Dental floss 

Dental floss is often the forgotten part of a good oral care routine. Using floss will reduce plaque buildup and the acids from plaque bacteria that break down teeth and lead to gum recession and gum disease.  

Floss can be difficult to get the hang of, but waxed dental floss tape may be slightly easier to use. If you find using this challenging, try floss picks. One last tip — floss comes in various flavours, which can make flossing a lot more pleasant if you are not keen on the taste of mint. 

Interdental brushes

An alternative to dental floss is interdental brushes. They come in various sizes and are especially useful if you have large gaps between teeth. Try different sizes until you find one that is comfortable to use, and always use interdental brushes before you brush your teeth.

Water flosser

As mentioned above, water flossers or water picks are fantastic tools to keep your teeth clean and free of plaque and gums healthy. They can be hard to use at first, so until you feel confident, it’s best to use your water flosser when it won’t matter if you end up a little wet! Water flossers can be used instead of floss, but for the cleanest teeth and healthiest gums possible, we recommend using dental floss in the morning and your water flosser before bed. 

Tongue scraper

Using a tongue scraper before you brush your teeth helps to remove bacteria from your tongue and keeps your breath fresher. You may gag the first time you use one, but they are worth persevering with, and before you know it, scraping your tongue will be as normal as brushing your teeth. 

When Should You Visit the Dentist?

If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth, floss or use interdental brushes, this is a sign of gum disease. Another sign is if gums pull away from the teeth, revealing the lower root of the tooth. Plaque build up is often the cause of gum problems, and it is important to have a dental check-up every six months. 

Trying to remove plaque with any of the tools in dental kits is never going to be equal to visiting your dentist. And unless plaque is removed by a trained dental professional, gum disease and recession can eventually result in tooth loss. In addition to removing plaque, a regular six-month dental check-up is the best way to stop decay and cavities, which often have no early signs or symptoms.

At Smile Stories cosmetic dentists in Bournemouth, we know it can be daunting to visit the dentist, especially if you have not been for years. But don’t worry, we will never make you feel bad about the health of your teeth and gums. Our job is to help you to get a smile that gives you confidence and show you how to look after your teeth and gums to keep your teeth looking fabulous. Find out more about what makes us different here.

You deserve to feel great when you smile, and whatever problems you have, we promise we can find a solution. Ready to smile properly and start your journey to healthy teeth and gums? Please call us or book your free Smile Makeover Video Consultation today.


Dr Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons) MFDS RCPS (Glasg) qualified from university with honours. Working in the Bournemouth & Poole area, he’s passionate about orthodontics, minimally invasive dentistry and is a certified Invisalign provider.