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Dental plaque identification at home

Definition

The home dental plaque identification test identifies plaque, a sticky substance that collects around and between teeth. The test helps show 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.

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 examination with dental instruments.

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 Values

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.

What the risks are

There are no risks.

Special 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.

Encyclopedia content is provided as information only and not intended to replace the advice and instruction from your personal physician.