Quantification of dental plaque on lingual tooth surfaces using image analysis: reliability and validation

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The aim of this study was to increase the versatility and further validate the method reported by Smith et al. (2001) by testing the reliability of plaque measurement against two well-known dental plaque quantification methodologies using image analysis in a clinical trial.


The teeth of 40 subjects were disclosed before digital images of the labial and lingual surfaces of their upper and lower incisors were acquired. The amount of plaque present was quantified using a modification of the method described by Smith et al. (2001). The method was modified for obtaining images of the lingual surfaces by incorporating the use of orthodontic occlusal mirrors and 5-mm pieces of moistened blue articulating paper used to enable calibration. Plaque measurements were made from 320 upper and lower anterior teeth from the 40 subjects by two operators. Fliess' coefficient of reliability was used to assess intra- and inter-operator reliability and the independent sample t test was used to assess statistical significance between test and control groups after checking the data for normality. For validation, measurements were recorded using the Turesky et al. (1970) (modification of the Quigley & Hein (1962) plaque index and the Addy et al. (1983) plaque area index. The results were compared with the image analysis method using Pearson's correlation coefficient.


The results for reliability were within Fliess' range of “excellent” for both intra-operator repeatability and inter-operator reproducibility. Pearson's correlation coefficients showed highly significant values indicating the close similarity between all three methods.


This method for the measurement of dental plaque on lingual surfaces of anterior teeth proved reliable. The combined results from the labial and lingual surfaces of anterior teeth using image analysis produced trial conclusions comparable with the alternate plaque quantification methods used, with less clinician time and further producing a permanent database of images for future use.

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