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Self-Examination for Dental Plaque

A self-examination for dental plaque is done using a product that stains the plaque on your teeth. Dental plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that sticks to your teeth, the spaces between the teeth, and under your gums. It can harden into tartar. The stain lets you to see how well you are brushing and flossing your teeth.

Plaque is made of different germs (bacteria) that grow on teeth. These bacteria react with sugars and starches in foods to make acids and other substances that can cause problems and damage the teeth, gums, and bone. Acids can eat away at tooth enamel by removing minerals from the enamel (this is called demineralization).

Products you can use at home include:

These products stain plaque that was missed when you brushed and flossed along your gum lines and between your teeth. Good brushing and flossing breaks up the plaque and does not let the bacteria and acid cause problems.

Why It Is Done

Plaque forms on the teeth every day and needs to be removed. It sticks to grooves and biting surfaces of the back teeth, between the teeth, and next to the gum line.

Checking for dental plaque helps you take better care of your teeth and mouth.

How To Prepare

You will need a:

  • Supply of disclosing tablets, disclosing solution, or disclosing swabs.
  • Small dental mirror to check hard-to-see areas of your mouth. (A mirror is helpful but not required.)

Dental mirrors and disclosing tablets, solution, and swabs can be bought from most dentists and pharmacies.

How It Is Done

You will brush and floss your teeth. Then you will use the disclosing product. Follow the instructions on the package. Gently rinse your mouth with water. Check your teeth for plaque that has been colored with the dye. Your gums also may be stained and appear red, but this is not a problem. Use a dental mirror, if you have one, to help see behind teeth and the areas in the back of your mouth. If you find stained plaque, brush and floss again until it is gone. This helps you find areas you are missing.

Disclosing tablets

Chew a disclosing tablet and allow it to mix with your saliva. Swish the mixture around in your mouth with your tongue for about 30 seconds and then spit it out.

Disclosing solution

Put some disclosing solution in your mouth, swish it around for about 30 seconds, and then spit the solution out.

Disclosing swabs

Apply the swab to all tooth surfaces in your mouth.

Use these products regularly until you find no more areas of stained plaque after you brush and floss. You may want to test for plaque once a month to be sure you are getting rid of the plaque.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 13, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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