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Medically Reviewed
Published: February 10, 2024

How to use plaque disclosing tablets

Author: Jon Love (Leave a comment)
Medical reviewer: Dr Gemma Wheeler, BDS
A montage showing a person with plaque disclosing on their teeth and a set of plaque disclosing tablets being taken out of a box.

Plaque disclosing solution is a dye that sticks to the plaque on your teeth to highlight areas where you could brush more effectively.

Certain disclosing products will even dye parts of the mouth different colors to show the difference between new and old plaque.

Depending on whether you are using plaque disclosure tablets, solution, swabs or floss, the process is slightly different for each.  Below I explain the process for tablets and solution, the most popular options.

In any case, you may want to put some vaseline or lip balm on first to stop it from staining your lips.

How to use plaque disclosing tablets

  • Step 1: Brush and floss your teeth like you normally would first.
  • Step 2: Take one plaque disclosing tablet, place it in the mouth and chew it thoroughly.  Younger children may require only half a tablet.  Do not swallow it.  Mix with saliva and spread it around the mouth and all over the teeth and gums with your tongue.
  • Step 3: Spit out saliva carefully (it can be messy) and then rinse your mouth out with water. Depending on how much excess dye remains you may need to rinse again.
  • Step 4:  Pay attention to areas of the mouth where brushing and flossing could be improved. The plaque will be shown or highlighted by dark patches to which the dye in the tablet has stuck.  In many instances old plaque (older than 12 hours will stain Blue) with new plaque (less than 12 hours old) staining Red/Pink.
  • Step 5: Brush and floss your teeth thoroughly to remove the stains and plaque buildup.
How to use plaque disclosing tablets 1

How to use plaque disclosing solution

  • Step 1: Brush and floss your teeth like you normally would first.
  • Step 2: Dispense a few drops into a dish.
  • Step 3: Paint a small amount onto the teeth with a cotton wool bud or small brush.
  • Step 4: Rinse your mouth out with water to remove the excess.
  • Step 5: Pay attention to areas of the mouth where brushing and flossing could be improved.  The plaque will be shown or highlighted by dark patches to which the dye in the tablet has stuck.  In many instances old plaque (older than 12 hours will stain Blue) with new plaque (less than 12 hours old) staining Red/Pink.
  • Step 5: Brush and floss your teeth thoroughly to remove the stains and plaque buildup.
How to use plaque disclosing tablets 2

Product recommendations

During our testing we've found that tablets tend to best easiest to use and manage. You just crunch them and then spread the solution around your mouth. You do not need to paint the solution onto the teeth and gums.

Tablets tend to have a longer shelf life too.

Our recommendation is TePe PlaqSearch tablets. This is what we use when we're testing the effectiveness of different brushes for our electric toothbrush reviews.

TePe PlaqSearch
TePe PlaqSearch

Other brands exist as do various pack sizes.

Disclosing solution tends to be less readily available to buy.

How to use plaque disclosing tablets 3
We use TePe Plaqsearch tablets when testing new toothbrushes

Why disclose plaque?

Plaque can be difficult to see, especially when it is between the teeth, on the inside of the teeth, or at the back of the mouth. In the early stages of its development, it is colorless.

If you are used to the feel of plaque, you may not even be aware of where it is building up in your mouth!

Disclosing products are useful for showing where plaque has accumulated.  Having been shown where it is, you can turn your attention to brushing and cleaning the affected area thoroughly.

Plaque disclosing tablets highlight areas of retained plaque by staining them in a bright color. This is useful for both adults and children.

How to get plaque off your teeth

Brushing and flossing is the easiest way to remove plaque from your teeth.

Twice daily brushing along with interdental cleaning should reach and remove the majority, if not all of the plaque on your teeth.

If you use the correct tools and techniques, you should do a good job of removing plaque. See our post on how to brush your teeth properly for more instructions.

Every time you eat and drink, it contributes to plaque buildup.  Plaque is an ongoing battle and you will never truly win.  But don't despair, as long as you keep a routine and try your best you will reduce the plaque buildup to a healthy level.

Dental professionals do have special tools to help remove plaque, particularly hardened plaque known as tartar or calculus.

brushing teeth with electric toothbrush

How to tell the difference between old and new plaque

Most disclosure tablets highlight the two by staining them different colors.

A reddish color shows new plaque that has built up within the last few hours. A blue color highlights plaque that is much older, normally in excess of 24 hours.

New plaque is classed as being less than 12 hours old. This plaque will normally build up over the course of the day between brushing your teeth.

Old plaque is the buildup of bacteria that is older than 12 hours.  This plaque really should have been removed the last time you brushed your teeth.

How to use plaque disclosing tablets 4

Clean, plaque free teeth would have virtually no dye stick to them.

It is not uncommon to see both new and old plaque when disclosing, but ideally, for the best oral health, you want to rid your mouth of both.

You should be concerned if you are seeing signs of a lot of old plaque.  This is an indication that your brushing and flossing routine is not getting to all the areas in your mouth.

FAQ

I have answered a few of the key questions that arise with plaque disclosing through this article, but below are a few more frequently asked questions and the answer to them.

How often should you use disclosing products?

The choice is yours.  You can use as frequently or infrequently as you like.

You might want to use every few days until you perfect your routine and then check every few weeks to ensure you are continuing to reach all the plaque in your mouth.

Are plaque disclosing products suitable for children?

  • Yes.  Disclosing products are formulated with children in mind.
  • They are a fantastic tool in educating children and encouraging them to brush better.
  • Often they respond well to the very obvious before and after approach that disclosing involves as they can clearly see the benefits.
  • It is recommended though that children under 12 are supervised when using disclosing agents.

Is the plaque-disclosing agent harmful if I swallow it?

  • No, not normally.
  • Ideally, adults and children alike should spit out or rinse off the excess disclosing agent, but if swallowed you will come to no harm.
  • Whilst different brands of disclosing agents differ in their makeup, most are made from simply food dyes that if ingested will pass through the body.
  • Please consult the ingredients of the disclosing product before using if you have an allergy.

What are dental disclosing tablets made of?

  • The ingredients differ from one brand to another.
  • Often they are made from a harmless vegetable dye that stains the plaque already resting on your teeth.
  • Listed below are the ingredients from 2 TePe products, which I consider to be one of the leading choices within this market.
  • TePe Plaq-Search tablets:
    • Hydrated Dextrates, Magnesium Stearate, Sodium Starch Glycolate, Aroma, CI 42090, CI 45410.
  • Tepe Plaq-Search solution:
    • Aqua, CI 42090, CI 45410, Methylparaben, Propylparben.
  • TePe products are gluten free and suitable for vegetarians.
  • Of course, these ingredients are subject to change.  Always check before use. if you are aware of any allergies to certain ingredients do not use.

How do I remove the disclosing solution from my teeth?

  • Brushing and flossing is how the disclosing agent should be removed from the teeth.
  • Teeth have five surfaces, so make sure that all are cleaned. You may need to use special cleaning aids such as interdental brushes or floss to clean between the teeth and to remove the stain.

Will it stain the rest of my mouth?

  • It is possible that your tongue, gums and lips will pick up some staining from using disclosing products.
  • To reduce the chances of this, use vaseline or lip balm before staining your teeth.  Afterwards, rinse out thoroughly after disclosing and try to avoid licking your lips.
  • You can also gently brush your tongue.
  • The staining is temporary and will wear off in a few hours.

Will it stain my implant/crown/bridge?

  • Disclosing agents will only stain the plaque found on bridges, dental crowns and implants and will not stain the dental work.   Some materials used to make or fix orthodontic appliances to the teeth can stain and so you should ask your dentist for advice, before disclosing

Can I use disclosing agents with my orthodontic appliance?

  • Normally, yes.  However, if the brackets and bands are plastic they can pick up the staining.  Best check with your orthodontist first.

Does it stain clothing?

  • It is possible that disclosing products will stain clothing and furnishings.  As best as possible avoid contact to stop staining.

Do plaque-disclosing tablets and disclosing agents go out of date?

  • Yes.  The packaging will usually give information of their shelf life or expiry date.  Tablets tend to have the longest shelf life.

I brush and floss and still get plaque

  • This is normal.  Plaque will always come back.  The speed at which it returns will depend on a number of factors, notably your age, diet and lifestyle.  Ensure you are following the advice above about preventing plaque buildup.  If that does not help or your are concerned, speak to your dentist for personalised advice.
Author: Jon Love
Medical reviewer: Dr Gemma Wheeler, BDS

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