Today’s patients invariably understand that plaque is the cause of most dental problems and that brushing is the best way to remove it. Sadly though, most people have ‘blind spots’ with their brushing and habitually miss certain areas. One of the reasons is simply that plaque is difficult for the lay person to identify.
Recently a couple of Australian dentists, Prof. Barrie Gillings and Dr. Mark Knapp, have developed a new toothbrush and toothpaste combination that should improve cleaning by showing people where plaque has collected, even after conscientious brushing.
Dr Knapp explains, “Plaque is essentially tooth coloured and camouflaged so it is not surprising people have trouble removing all of it when they can not actually see it. Over the years dentists have used red disclosing solution to identify it but this sort of dye always stained the lips and clothing just as readily as it has stained plaque. There had to be an easy way of identifying plaque every time a person picks up a toothbrush.”
In 1977 Professor Gillings conducted research into Fluorescein dye and demonstrated how, when exposed to weak ultra-violet light, stained plaque would fluoresce bright yellow. Importantly, the Fluorescein did not appear unsightly under normal light and did not stain gums, lips or clothing. Unlike red erythrosin dye it displayed plaque as readily on the gums as it did on the teeth.
Over the next few years the Dental Health and Research Foundation embarked on a community education campaign with Fluorescein disclosant at its centre. Families visiting Royal Agricultural Shows could walk through Plaque Disclosing Tunnels with UV light and identify where their brushing had missed. Seeing the plaque shining bright yellow was both an education and a motivation to better oral hygiene.
In recent times Prof. Gillings adapted the concept for home use and by placing small ultra violet LED lights in the back of electric toothbrushes. He then went one step further and incorporated the Fluorescein into regular toothpaste.
The fluorescein toothpaste and toothbrush/light system has now been commercialised by Dentalife Pty Ltd and is now available under the name Plaq Pro.
This means that after teeth have been cleaned and the mouth rinsed, the quality of cleaning can be checked in the bathroom mirror by turning the brush around and switching on its UV light. Where plaque remains, the brushing can be repeated and any trouble spots specifically targeted. When patients know exactly where to brush, oral hygiene should improve.
Plaq Pro is made in Australia.