Navigate Up

Seniors Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

Dental plaque identification at home

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.

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.

References

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

Updated: 2/25/2014

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.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com