Anyone can use plaque-disclosing tablets, though they're particularly effective for youngsters who have yet to develop ideal brushing and flossing techniques or habits. Even those children who insist they've brushed properly can't escape the visual evidence of dyed teeth.
If fact, the tablets -- thanks to the bright colors such as red, blue and purple (not to mention different flavors, like cherry) -- lend themselves to making a game of ferreting out plaque. Crafty adults can engage their children by making a game of using the tablets to promote good hygiene -- what kid doesn't think bright blue teeth are cool? Even better, the results are immediate, which will suit even the most impatient youngster.
Remind your child that dental hygiene isn't a "one-and-done" exercise, but an ongoing process. Like any fitness regimen, it's a lifestyle choice. And it teaches him or her that a thorough dental self-exam will pay dividends for them for the rest of their lives.
Conversely, you should never consider yourself too old to use new dental-hygiene tools. Even adults with prior dental issues, including cavities, can benefit from the tablets, since plaque, like rust, never sleeps. You want to preserve whatever healthy tooth enamel you have.
Of course, you can take the "out of sight, out of mind" approach to plaque, but your dentist is likely to remind you of the spots you missed (either in terms of tartar build-up or cavities). Most of us do a better job brushing our front teeth, while our larger teeth in back don't often get the same vigilant treatment. And that's where plaque can do its damage. Plaque-disclosing tablets will stain those areas, but you still have to be able to see the dye to address the issue.
For those hard-to-see areas, invest in a small dental mirror. This will ensure that you can find every nook and cranny that plaque, and the dye, will also find. To prevent the mirror from fogging up, run it under warm water. You can also purchase an inexpensive set of dental picks or a double-sided tartar scraper to clean hardened build-up, but those tools are typically best left in the hands of professionals.
Timing is also important. Again, these tablets are effective because they contain a bright dye. The flip side is that some dyes don't fade very quickly, and can last up to 24 hours. The dye can also temporarily color lips and cheeks. Think twice about using the tablets before a big night on the town (unless, of course, it's Halloween). Most people use the tablets before bed, allowing the dye to fade naturally overnight.
Likewise, the dye in these tablets can stain clothing and towels. Users should exercise caution, and rinse any discolored clothing immediately.
For most, the tablets are perfectly safe to use. However, people prone to allergies -- and especially those allergic to dyes -- should be sure to review the package instructions and list of ingredients. If you have any doubts, check with your physician or dentist.
Want to know more? We've got lots more information below.
- American Dental Association. "Oral Health Topics: Frequently Ask Questions." ADA.org. (Nov. 3, 2011) http://www.ada.org/4163.aspx?currentTab=1
- Checkdent. "Plaque Tablets - Why Use Them?" Checkdent.com. April 11, 2011. (Nov. 4, 2011) http://www.checkdent.com/dental-blog/plaque-tablets.html?lang=en
- Colgate. "Plaque: What is it and How do We Get Rid of It?" (Nov. 4, 2011) http://www.colgate.com/app/CP/US/EN/OC/Information/Articles/Oral-and-Dental-Health-Basics/Common-Concerns/Plaque-and-Tartar/article/Plaque-What-is-it-and-How-do-we-get-rid-of-it.cvsp
- Healthwise. "Plaque." WebMD.com. April 18, 2011. (Nov. 5, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/hw-popup/plaque-dental
- Healthwise. "Self-Examination for Dental Plaque." WebMD.com. June 9, 2010. (Nov. 5, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/self-examination-for-dental-plaque
- Jacobs, Virginia. "Plaque disclosing Tablets Show Plaque That Remains After Brushing." Disabled World. Feb. 13, 2011. (Nov. 4, 2011) http://www.disabled-world.com/health/oral/plaque-tablets.php
- Rosenberg, Jack. "Dental plaque identification at home." MedlinePlus. Updated, Feb. 2, 2010. (Nov. 3, 2011) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003426.htm
- SimplyTeeth. "Diet and Tooth Decay." SimplyTeeth.com. (Nov. 5, 2011) http://www.simplyteeth.com/category/sections/adult/caringteethgums/DietDecay.asp?category=adult§ion=4&page=5
- Web Dental Office. "What Causes Plaque on Your Teeth?" March 29, 2009. (Nov. 5, 2011) http://users.forthnet.gr/ath/abyss/dep1211.htm