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J Dent. 2005 Mar;33(3):193-207. Epub 2004 Dec 9.

Quantification of dental plaque in the research environment.

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The University of Manchester, Turner Dental School, Unit of Prosthodontics, Higher Cambridge Street, Manchester M15 6SH, UK.



To review the established and novel methods of plaque quantification employed in dental research, including a discussion of their merits and to present a new method of planimetrically measuring plaque using light induced fluorescence.


Quantitative light-fluorescence (QLF) images were acquired from the buccal surfaces of an individual who had refrained from oral hygiene both with and without traditional plaque disclosure. Digital photographs were also taken. Images were analysed using a novel method and a percentage plaque index produced.


Traditional plaque indices are problematic due to their integral nature and their failure to detect small, but potentially clinically relevant changes in plaque area. The use of a fluorescent technique demonstrated good reliability although there was no correlation between red fluorescent plaque and total disclosed plaque suggesting that the auto-fluorescing plaque is not a good measure of total plaque volume.


The use of planimetric techniques can increase the power of plaque studies, potentially reducing the number of subjects and time required to separate therapies or products. Fluorescent methods of quantification have potential as they enable clear separation of the plaque covered and non-covered tooth surfaces.

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