Abstract Calculus deposited on a total of 68 permanent teeth from patients 30–60 years old from Nagoya in Japan and Beijing in China was investigated. An abrasive microsampling method was used to examine the fluoride (F) and magnesium (Mg) distribution, using a fluoride ion-specific electrode and atomic absorption spectrophotometry, respectively. F concentrations decreased from the surface towards the interior of the calculus. Mg concentrations, however, gradually rose towards the innermost surface adjacent to the tooth. In all parts of the depth profiles, the average concentrations of both magnesium and fluoride were higher in the Japanese than in the Chinese calculus. Towards the inner surface of the calculus, F and Mg concentrations were also much higher in the Japanese than in the Chinese group. A greater intake of sea foods and greater use of fluoride dentifrices are possible reasons for the higher F and Mg concentrations in the Japanese individuals.