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Dental plaque identification at home
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Dental plaque identification at home

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Plaque is a sticky substance that collects around and between teeth. The home dental plaque identification test shows where plaque builds up. This helps you know how well you are brushing and flossing your teeth.

Plaque is the major cause of tooth decay and gum disease (gingivitis). It is hard to see with the naked eye because it is whitish colored, like teeth.

There are two ways to perform this test.

  • One method uses special tablets that contain a red dye that stains the plaque. One tablet is chewed thoroughly, moving the mixture of saliva and dye over the teeth and gums for about 30 seconds. The mouth is then rinsed with water and the teeth are examined to identify pink-stained areas (unremoved plaque). A small dental mirror may help to check all areas.
  • The second method uses a plaque light. A special fluorescent solution is swirled around the mouth. The mouth is rinsed gently with water, and the teeth and gums are examined while shining an ultraviolet plaque light into the mouth. The advantage of this method is that it leaves no pink stains in the mouth.

In the office, dentists are often able to detect plaque through a thorough exam with dental tools.

I Would Like to Learn About:

  • How the Test is Performed

    There are two ways to perform this test.

    • One method uses special tablets that contain a red dye that stains the plaque. One tablet is chewed thoroughly, moving the mixture of saliva and dye over the teeth and gums for about 30 seconds. The mouth is then rinsed with water and the teeth are examined to identify pink-stained areas (unremoved plaque). A small dental mirror may help to check all areas.
    • The second method uses a plaque light. A special fluorescent solution is swirled around the mouth. The mouth is rinsed gently with water, and the teeth and gums are examined while shining an ultraviolet plaque light into the mouth. The advantage of this method is that it leaves no pink stains in the mouth.

    In the office, dentists are often able to detect plaque through a thorough exam with dental tools.

  • How to Prepare for the Test

    Brush and floss your teeth thoroughly.

  • How the Test will Feel

    Your mouth may feel slightly dried out after use of the dye.

  • Why the Test is Performed

    The test is performed to help identify missed plaque and improve brushing and flossing of the teeth so that areas of plaque are not left. If the plaque is not removed, it can cause tooth decay or cause the gums to bleed easily (gingivitis) and become red or swollen.

  • Normal Results

    No plaque or food debris will be seen on the teeth.

  • What Abnormal Results Mean

    The tablets will stain areas of plaque dark-red.

    The plaque light solution will color the plaque a brilliant orange-yellow.

    The colored areas show where the brushing and flossing have missed. These areas need to be brushed again to get rid of the stained plaque.

  • Risks

    There are no risks.

  • Considerations

    The tablets may cause a temporary pink coloring of the lips and cheeks. They may color the mouth and tongue red. Dentists suggest using them at night so that the color will be gone by morning.

Related Information

  Dental cavitiesGingivitis     Periodontal diseas...

References

Chetrus V. Dental Plaque: Classification, formation, and identification. International Journal of Medical Dentistry. 2013;3(2):139-143.

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Review Date: 2/25/2014  

Reviewed By: Ilona Fotek, DMD, MS, Palm Beach Prosthodontics Dental Associates, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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