• 21 JUN 16
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    How To Test And Track Plaque At Home

    How To Test And Track Plaque At HomeDental plaque is a sticky substance consisting of harmful bacteria. It collects as a film on and between your teeth. Over time, plaque can harden into tartar, a dark staining substance. Tartar can’t be removed by brushing and flossing. Getting rid of it requires a trip to Dr. Evanson, who uses special tools to perform a process called scaling.

    In addition to tartar buildup, the bacteria that live in your mouth react with sugars and starches in the food you eat to make acids and other harmful substances. Some of these eat away at enamel and cause tooth decay while others lead to gum disease. Therefore, removing plaque twice a day by brushing and flossing in the morning and at night is for more than just preventing unsightly tartar buildup; it’s for protecting your teeth and gums.

    When you brush and floss, you can make an extra effort to thoroughly scrub all surfaces of every tooth. But how do you know your child is taking the same care? One method is to test and track plaque at home.

    At-home products available to test and track plaque include disclosing tablets, solutions and swabs. These products stain plaque red with a harmless dye so you can track how well you and your child are brushing and flossing. As you might imagine, this is particularly beneficial for kids since it gives them a visual representation of how effective their oral hygiene efforts are.

    How Does Self-Examination Work?

    Whether you self-examine your own teeth or your child’s, follow these steps:

    • Brush and floss as usual.
    • Follow the instructions on the disclosing product you choose:
      • For disclosing tablets, chew one tablet and allow it to mix with your saliva. Swish for 30 seconds and spit.
      • For a disclosing solution, swish a small amount of solution for 30 seconds and spit.
      • For disclosing swabs, carefully swab all tooth surfaces.  
    • Gently rinse your mouth with water.
    • Look in the mirror to check your teeth for any plaque that has been colored by the dye. Use a small dental mirror if you have one to make it easier to see areas in the back of your mouth.
    • Brush and floss your teeth again if necessary to remove any residual plaque.
    • Use a disclosing tablet, solution or swab nightly until no staining occurs after you brush and floss. This shows you have mastered the correct way to care for your teeth so no plaque is left behind.
    • Test for plaque once a month to ensure you aren’t becoming lax in your brushing and flossing techniques.

    Alternative to Staining Products

    If you want to test and track plaque at home without discoloring your mouth with red dye, consider the plaque light method. This is when you swish a special fluorescent solution after brushing and flossing like normal. Rinse your mouth with water and then examine your mouth with an ultraviolet plaque light. If any plaque remains on your teeth, it will glow a bright yellow-orange in the UV light. You must obtain this special light for this dye-free method to work.


    Be aware that using disclosing tablets, solutions or swabs may harmlessly stain your gums and tongue with a red dye for as long as 24 hours. Because of this, you may want to test for plaque at bedtime so the dye can fade overnight as you sleep.

    Also, be careful when using disclosing products because the bright red dye can stain clothing. Read the ingredients list to ensure you aren’t allergic to the dyes in the product you choose.

    To learn more about obtaining disclosing tablets, solutions or swabs so you can test and track plaque at home, please contact Evanson DDS online or call us at (720) 409-0008.

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