Are you cleaning your teeth properly? Plaque disclosing tablets and plaque disclosing mouthwash show you where there is dental plaque buildup on your teeth, so you know where to focus your brushing and flossing efforts.
Plaque tablets for kids are a great way to promote better oral hygiene, and they can be just as beneficial for adults, too!
If you've never used plaque staining tablets or mouthwash that shows where you missed brushing, you might be wondering which ones are best, how they work, and how to use them.
In this article, we'll talk about tablets and mouthwash that stains plaque so you can decide which is best for you.
Table of contents
How to see plaque on teeth
Dental plaque is a biofilm that naturally builds up on teeth throughout the day. The bacteria in plaque consume food particles in our mouths, producing enamel-eroding acids in the process.
If not removed with proper brushing and flossing, plaque can harden into tartar, which can only be removed with a professional dental cleaning.
Over time, tartar and plaque lead to dental problems including:
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Bad breath
- Yellow teeth
The good news is that plaque is quite straightforward to remove with daily brushing and flossing. Our article about how to brush your teeth explains exactly what you should be doing.
The problem is, plaque is very hard to see since it is translucent or pale yellow. You might be able to feel it with your tongue as it can make teeth feel slimy or rough, but it's hard to know if you're doing a good job of removing all the plaque on your teeth (or your child's teeth) when you brush and floss.
It may be that you're missing certain teeth when you brush without realizing, or not paying enough attention to the gumline, for instance.
That's where dental plaque disclosing tablets or plaque disclosing mouthwash for teeth and other plaque revealing products come in. You can use these to show plaque on your or your child's teeth before and/or after brushing, so you can get better at removing it all.
If you want to know more about plaque, what causes it, and how to get rid of it, we have lots more information at Dentaly.org. But for now, the main things to know are:
- It's bad to let plaque build up on your teeth.
- You can remove plaque by brushing and flossing, provided you do it well.
- Plaque disclosing tablets help you see plaque on your teeth so you know if you're removing it effectively.
Now, let's look at the different plaque disclosing products available in the US.
About plaque disclosing tablets and solutions
Biofilm disclosing products are available in a number of forms:
- Chewable tablets
- Liquid solutions
In the US, chewable dental disclosing tablets are by far the most widely available product to reveal plaque on teeth. Mouthwash that shows plaque is harder to find, and toothpastes are few and far between.
They all work in pretty much the same way though. Plaque staining tablets and plaque disclosing mouthwash contain a colored dye, usually vegetable-based, which sticks to plaque and makes it easy to see which areas of the mouth require extra attention.
Some plaque tablets and mouthwash that stains plaque have a two-tone formula that shows old plaque (which has been there for 12-24 hours or more) in one color and newer plaque in another color.
A lot of old plaque indicates that you are not removing plaque properly when you brush, and you're at risk of tartar buildup. The goal should be to have less and less dye stick to your teeth as you improve your oral hygiene routine.
Are plaque disclosing tablets safe?
They are safe to use and beneficial too, especially for patients who are at particular risk of plaque buildup, both children and adults. Some groups are more risk including the following:
- Children who are still learning how to brush
- People with limited manual dexterity
- Anyone with braces (flossing with braces can be very tricky)
- People with receding gums or gum disease
- People with certain chronic medical conditions
But in fact, anyone can safely use plaque disclosing tablets to reveal plaque left behind after brushing. Even teenagers and adults who think they do a good job brushing their teeth might be surprised at what they're missing.
Do plaque disclosing mouthwash and tablets clean teeth?
The tablets themselves don't do anything to make teeth cleaner; you still need to make an effort to brush the areas you've been neglecting. However, they do help improve brushing habits.
Research published in the Journal of Oral Research and Review concludes that “usage of plaque disclosing agent improves the quality of daily oral hygiene measures performed at home”.
Another study published by the American Association of Orthodontics looked into the effect of plaque disclosers compared to being shown the severe consequences of letting plaque build up. Focusing on 11 to 25-year-olds wearing traditional braces, the conclusion was that dental disclosing tablets alone made little difference to oral hygiene.
However, people who were shown images of plaque damage and also used plaque tablets showed the greatest improvement overall.
How often should you use plaque disclosing tablets or mouthwash?
It's really up to you how often you or your child use dental plaque disclosers. When you first start using them, you might want to check once a day to see how your brushing is improving.
Over time, as you get better at removing plaque, you can cut back to once or twice a week, just to check that you're continuing to clean plaque effectively. If you notice more plaque building up again, it could be worth using them more often.
Plaque disclosing tablets
So what are disclosing tablets? Plaque disclosing tablets are the most common type of plaque discloser. They are hard tablets of compressed powder, similar in size to the Tylenol or ibuprofen you might be used to taking. But rather than wash them right down, you keep them in your mouth and chew them.
As you chew on the tablet, your saliva mixes with the powder and carries the dye around your mouth. The dye sticks to plaque and highlights the areas that haven't been cleaned properly.
How to use plaque disclosing tablets
Plaque tablets are quite simple to use; just follow these steps:
- Brush teeth as normal
- Put one tablet in your mouth and chew it until it breaks down
- Let it mix with your saliva then use your tongue to spread saliva all over your teeth and gums
- Don't swallow, but spit out the mixture and rinse well with water
- Look at your mouth under good light and check where the dye is darkest. With two-tone disclosing tablets, usually old plaque is blue and new plaque is red.
- Brush and floss your teeth again, focusing on the stained areas until all the dye has gone.
In the video below you can see a dental hygienist demonstrate the correct use of plaque disclosing tablets.
You can also use dental disclosing tablets before brushing your teeth, to see how dirty they really are. This can be a helpful tactic for children who are complaining about having to brush in the first place!
Plaque tablets can be a bit messy; they are designed to stain plaque, but they may also stain your lips and anything else they come into contact with. Applying lip balm or Vaseline to the lips first can help, but still, you might not want to use one of these tablets right before going to work or meeting someone!
The dye in the tablets can stain clothes and tile grout too (although it should wipe off tiles and porcelain). You might want to give younger children an old t-shirt to wear, and you can cover tiles with a towel to prevent staining where you don't want it.
Choosing plaque tablets
You can find dental plaque disclosing tablets in pharmacies, supermarkets, and online.
Some things to consider when choosing between brands:
- Flavor: They are often fruit-flavored but if you don't like the taste of one brand, try another.
- Dual-color: If you want to be able to see the difference between old and new plaque, be sure to choose a two-tone discloser. One color shows which plaque you're regularly missing; the other color shows what's accumulated in the past 12 hours or so.
- Shelf life: Although tablets usually have a long shelf life, they will expire eventually. If buying in bulk to get a better price, make sure you will use them all in time.
Here are a couple of popular brands of plaque disclosing tablet available in the US:
Smile Brilliant Plaque Highlighters
Smile Brilliant makes plaque disclosing tablets for both adults and kids. These tablets are designed to temporarily dye teeth, showing the spots you missed while brushing.
These tablets work with an easy-to-see pink dye that marks plaque once you chew the tablet. Here's exactly how they work in just 2 simple steps:
- Chew the tablet: Chew a tablet for 30 seconds, and then swish it around in your mouth. Spit and rinse with water for 10 seconds.
- See the plaque: Now smile li the mirror and you'll clearly see all of the areas you missed when you brushed. All you have to do is brush and floss your teeth, and rinse again. Repeat as needed until the pink stains are gone.
These tablets are also gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan, and you can get them in a 30-day supply, a 60-day supply or a 90-day supply.
Butler GUM Red Cote disclosing tablets
Some of the most popular dental disclosing tablets on Amazon are the GUM Red Cote dental disclosing tablets. These plaque disclosing tablets will work for kids and adults, are advertised as tasting good and are easy to use.
You simply brush your teeth and rinse your mouth, then chew on one of the tablets for 30 seconds without swallowing. The tablet will turn plaque buildup red, so you can see spots you missed while brushing.
The general consensus for the GUM dental disclosing tablets among reviewers is that they don't actually taste that great and they can leave a pink mess behind if you aren't careful. But most are satisfied, like this reviewer who says:
“Just like I used as a kid! I really encourage parents with young kids to get this and treat it like a game.”
Plaqsearch plaque disclosing tablets
Plaqsearch tablets are chewable dental disclosing tablets that show plaque on teeth and can be used for adults and children. These have a bit more novelty than standard plaque disclosing tablets, because they are two-toned.
This means that they will differentiate between old and new plaque, by staining the old plaque blue and the new plaque red.
One parent who bought these for their child keeps it short and sweet by saying:
“A great product to teach your child how to brush their teeth for effectively.”
Plaque disclosing tablets for kids
Chewable plaque tablets are fine for both children and adults to use, although children may only need to use half a tablet at a time. Kids might be more picky about the taste of them, so try switching brands if your child doesn't like the first ones you try.
Give them more motivation to brush thoroughly by turning it into a competition with you or their sibling—brush together and then use a tablet to see whose teeth are cleaner.
Alternatively, children may benefit from using an electric toothbrush that is specially designed for their age. Read our guide to find out more about the best electric toothbrushes for kids and the special features that can help them brush better.
Our guide to children's oral health has more information and tips for taking care of children's teeth.
Plaque disclosing mouthwash
If you have problems using a chewable tablet to show plaque on your teeth, it's possible to get a plaque disclosing mouthwash instead.
Amazon's choice for plaque disclosing mouthwash is Trace disclosing solution. You swish it around your mouth for about 30 seconds, just like regular mouthwash, before spitting and checking where the dye has stuck.
Another option is Listerine Smart Rinse. It's a kind of plaque disclosing mouthwash. Your kids (or you!) use it as a regular mouthwash after brushing teeth.
The smart rinse tints the food particles that are spit into the sink so you can see how much you missed while brushing. However, this mouthwash doesn't actually show where on teeth you still have plaque, since, in theory, it cleans it off for you.
If you are looking for a kids' mouthwash that shows plaque on teeth, this may be a good option, not to mention it comes in three flavors: mint, wild berry and bubble blast.
Note that you shouldn't try to make your own plaque disclosing solution by dissolving a tablet in water and then rinsing with it. The water will dilute the dye and make it less effective. You should also never use any mouthwash as a substitute for proper brushing and flossing.
Plaque disclosing toothpastes
It's also possible to buy toothpaste that shows plaque, without dying your mouth and your sink, although these can be more difficult to find.
Piksters Plaque GLO is a good option if you don't like the red or blue color left behind by tablets (and the unwanted staining it can cause). The plaque dye isn't visible until you shine a special light on your teeth—only then can you see the areas that need further brushing or flossing.
Each tube of Plaque GLO is supplied with a little torch and this toothpaste contains 1000ppm of fluoride for enamel protection as well.
It's a bit more pricey than regular toothpaste, but you don't need to use it every time you brush. Once or twice a week will give you a good indication of how you are doing at cleaning plaque from your teeth (but use another toothpaste the rest of the time, of course!).
There are various products that you can use to show plaque on teeth and discover which areas you need to brush more carefully. Chewable plaque disclosing tablets are most widely available, and suitable for most children and adults.
Disclosing mouthwash and toothpastes are also an option, if you prefer.
All of these products are designed to help you get better at cleaning your teeth and improve your overall oral hygiene. It's also important to visit your dentist for regular checkups.
What are disclosing tablets?
Plaque disclosing tablets are made from compressed powder. When you chew on them they dissolve in your mouth, but you don't swallow. Instead, you spread the dissolved tablet around. The dye from the tablet won't stick to your tooth enamel, but it will stick to any plaque that you missed while brushing.
Where can you buy plaque disclosing tablets?
You can find them at the supermarket, in pharmacies, or online like on Amazon, along with plenty of helpful reviews. They certainly aren't hard to find — you can ask your dentist too.
How do you use dental disclosing tablets?
Brush your teeth like you normally would and then chew a tablet. You should chew on the tablet until it dissolves, and then spread the dissolved tablet around by moving your tongue over your teeth. Then rinse your mouth with water and have a look!
The colored spots on your teeth are all of the places you need to focus on better brushing techniques. You'll want to check the instructions of the particular brand of plaque disclosing tablets that you have, but the instructions will probably be the same.
Journal of Oral Research and Review: A prospective case-control study to assess and compare the role of disclosing agent in improving the patient compliance in plaque control. Consulted 7th October 2019.