According to my study, some British people say "a buildup of scale on my teeth" and both British and American people say "a buildup of tartar on my teeth".

The British also say "to scale my teeth".

I brought this question up because my sister's husband is Australian (but his father was British who moved to Australia 30 or 40 years ago) and he said "...scale on my teeth" and "... got my teeth scaled".

It seems googling "scale of my teeth" does not show as many hits as "tartar of my teeth".

Do American people say "scale of my teeth" and "to scale my teeth"?

Is "tartar" more common than "scale" in dentistry?

  • 1
    This seems to be a technical question and the technical forum is Medical Sciences
    – James K
    Jan 14 at 7:32
  • 1
    I’m voting to close this question because it is technical (subject: dentistry). Jan 14 at 9:07
  • Also, calculus, i.e., little stones: goldenstatedentistry.com/blog/… (One does not get calculus just from apples, though.) Jan 15 at 2:50
  • There are multiple questions here. Which is more common in dentistry is a technical question. Whether non-medical-professional Americans say "scale" is on-topic; Google NGrams suggests that "scale from teeth" is almost unheard-of compared to "tartar from teeth". Although some Americans probably say it, if only because they were raised elsewhere.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 13 at 16:17

1 Answer 1


I’m an American, and I have never heard it called “scale” prior to seeing this question. All of my dentists have only used the term tartar.

  • From an Australian - all my dentists have used "tartar". I was aware of "scale" and would probably have interpreted it correctly without reading the question, but I hear it applied more to deposits in water heaters etc.
    – Peter
    Jan 14 at 8:40
  • @Peter - In Britain, it is very common to get a scale and polish when you visit a dentist, and I have seen the term used in other British English-speaking countries like Nigeria, Singapore, and New Zealand. The procedure can be done by a dentist or hygienist. The first ‘scrape’ stage removes the deposits of plaque and tartar. The next step is to 'polish' the teeth. Jan 14 at 9:13
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    @MichaelHarvey, yes "scale and polish" does ring a bell. Recently though I can only recall dentists using "tartar" as a name for the substance.
    – Peter
    Jan 15 at 2:09

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