Products that identify plaque in the mouth are nothing new. But does visibility actually make a difference when it comes to patient habits and a reduction in risk?
Inflammation and plaque bacteria
It’s becoming more and more clear that plaque bacteria have a huge impact on systemic conditions. For example, you’ll likely have heard that elevated levels of plaque bacteria have been connected to higher risks of heart disease and stroke.[i] Other research has suggested a correlation between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.[ii]
The culprit behind these links is c-reactive proteins (CRPs). These proteins are already in our bloodstreams, but react when our bodies experience an inflammatory response. With conditions such as gum disease where plaque acid is constantly causing an inflammatory response, these CRPs can quickly cause issues, building up in the bloodstream and heightening the risks of the previously mentioned conditions by blocking arteries or gathering in the brain.
So, with gum disease being such a risk factor, could making plaque visible really make a difference? As I was browsing through the news recently, I stumbled across a piece that described a randomised trial that set out to discover once and for all whether using a plaque-revealing toothpaste could help reduce the number of CRPs in a person’s system.
The results of the trial suggested that there was indeed a good case for plaque-identifying toothpaste, and that the use of it significantly lowered levels of CRPs in participants.[iii]
Why visualisation could make all the difference
So, if the results of this study are true and visualisation does help, why is this the case? Perhaps the most compelling argument is rather simple – if people can see a problem, they want to solve it. Plaque bacteria is easy to ignore in regular life because you can’t really see it clearly, unless there is a huge build up. If remaining plaque is clearly highlighted after brushing, this acts as a visual reminder that there is still work to be done, encouraging patients to clean their teeth with more care.
Also, humans are visual problem solvers.[iv] How often have you been faced with a conundrum and instantly reached for a pen and paper in order to jot down notes or brainstorm? Information is easier for us to process on a visual level, and while something like plaque on teeth being easily seen is a rather straight-forward example of this, it still shows how this sort of approach could appeal more to our natural problem-solving methods, and therefore be more effective.
The future of home dental products?
If this research holds up and people are responding to more visual dental products, this can only be a good thing. Even if plaque revealing toothpastes only encourages a small percentage of people to make better cleaning choices, progress is still progress and this shouldn’t be ignored.
[i] Harvard Health Publishing. Heart Disease and Oral Health: Role of Oral Bacteria in Heart Plaque. Link: https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/heart-disease-oral-health [Last accessed March 2020].
[ii] NHS. Gum Disease Linked To Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. Link: https://www.nhs.uk/news/neurology/gum-disease-linked-increased-risk-alzheimers-disease/ [Last accessed March 2020].
[iii] Science Daily. Could This Plaque Identifying Toothpaste Prevent a Heart Attack or Stroke? Link: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200224100554.htm [Last accessed March 20202].