Dental plaque identification at home


Plaque is a soft, sticky substance that collects around and between teeth. A home plaque identification test can show where plaque has accumulated. This can help you understand how well you're brushing and flossing.

Plaque is the leading cause of tooth decay and gum disease (gingivitis). It's hard to see with the naked eye because it's white, like teeth.

How the test works

There are two ways to perform this test.

  • One method is to use special tablets containing red dye to stain plaque. You chew 1 tablet thoroughly and apply the saliva and dye mixture to your teeth and gums for about 30 seconds. Then rinse your mouth with water and check your teeth. Any areas that are stained red are plaque. A small dental mirror can help you examine all areas.
  • The second method uses plaque lights. You swirl a special fluorescent solution around your mouth. Then rinse your mouth gently with water. Your teeth and gums are examined while a UV plaque lamp shines into your mouth. Light will make any plaque look a bright yellow-orange color. The advantage of this method is that it leaves no red marks in the mouth.

In the office, your dentist can usually detect plaque through a thorough examination using dental tools.

How to prepare for the exam

Brush and floss your teeth thoroughly.

How does it feel to test

Your mouth may feel slightly dry after using the dye.

Why test

This test helps identify missed plaque. It can encourage you to improve your brushing and flossing methods so that more plaque is removed from your teeth. Plaque left on teeth can cause cavities or make gums prone to bleeding, redness, or swelling.

normal result

You won’t see plaque or food particles on your teeth.

What abnormal results mean

These tablets stain areas of plaque a deep red.

Plaque Light Solution stains plaque a bright orange-yellow color.

Colored areas show areas where brushing and flossing are inadequate. These areas will need to be brushed again to remove stained plaque.


These tablets may cause your lips and cheeks to appear temporarily pink. They may stain your mouth and tongue red. Dentists recommend using them at night so the color is gone by morning.

refer to

Hughes CV, Dean JA. Mechanical and Chemotherapy Home Oral Hygiene. See: Dean JA, editor. McDonald and Avery Pediatric and Adolescent Dentistry. 11th edition. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022: Chapter 8.

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research website. Periodontal (gum) disease. Updated October 2018.

Perry DA, Takei HH, Du JH. Plaque biofilm control in periodontal patients. See: Newman MG, Takei HH, Klokkevold PR, Carranza FA, editors. Newman and Carranza's Clinical Periodontology. 13th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019: Chapter 48.

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