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Antiplaque agents can be classified as phenolics, essential oils, surfactants, herbal extracts, metal salts and enzymes.1,2



Essential oils

Thymol, eucalyptol, methyl salicylate, menthol2


Biguanides (e.g. chlorhexidine digluconate)1
Quaternary ammonium compounds (e.g. cetylpyridinium chloride)1
Pyrimidine derivatives (e.g. hexetidine)1
Bispyridine derivatives (e.g. octenidine hydrochloride)1
Anionic surfactants (e.g. aminoalcohols)1
Sodium lauryl sulphate2

Natural products/herbal extracts

Plant extracts such as apigenin, tt-farnesol2

Metal salts

Zinc chloride and citrate1
Stannous fluoride1
Copper salts1


Amyloglucosidase/glucose oxidase1


Phenols and essential oils are antiseptic compounds that have been used in medicine for over 100 years. Phenols and their derivatives have found widespread application as disinfectants, antiseptics, antipruritics, antifungals and antimicrobials. Most phenols exert a non-specific antibacterial action that is dependent upon the ability of the non-ionised form of the agent, to penetrate the lipid components of bacterial cell walls. The resultant structural damage affects the permeability of micro-organisms. In addition, several metabolic processes that are dependent upon enzymes contained within the cell membrane will be inactivated. Phenolic compounds have also been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory properties.1

The word surfactant is a contraction of surface active ingredient.3 Surfactants are wetting agents that lower the surface tension of a liquid, allowing easier spreading, and lower the interfacial tension between two liquids.1,3 Surfactants affect the growth of plaque.1

Surfactants can be chemically classified by their electrical charge. A non-ionic surfactant has no charged groups in its head. The head of an ionic surfactant carries a net charge. If the charge is negative, the surfactant is referred to as anionic; if the charge is positive, it is cationic.3

Salts of zinc, tin (stannous fluoride) and copper inhibit growth of dental plaque and impede calculus formation.1

Research into the use of enzymes as antiplaque agents has largely been discontinued. Their use was based upon their expected ability to break down the matrix of formed plaque and calculus.1


  1. Heasman P, Seymour RA. Pharmacological control of periodontal disease. I. Antiplaque agents.J Dent 1994; 22(6): 323–335.
  2. Marsh PD. Contemporary perspective on plaque control. Brit Dent J 2012; 212(12): 601–606.
  3. Bergh M. Allergenic oxidation products.  Acta Dermatovenereologica 1999; 79(205): 5–26.