Background: Photodynamic therapy (PDT) has been suggested as an efficient clinical approach for the treatment of dental plaque in the field of dental care. In PDT, once the photosensitizer is irradiated with light of a specific wavelength, it transfers the excitation energy to molecular oxygen, which gives rise to singlet oxygen. Methodology/Principal Findings: Since plaque disclosing agents usually contain photosensitizers such as rose bengal, erythrosine, and phloxine, they could be used for PTD upon photoactivation. The aim of the present study is to compare the ability of these three photosensitizers to produce singlet oxygen in relation to their bactericidal activity. The generation rates of singlet oxygen determined by applying an electron spin resonance technique were in the order phloxine & erythrosine ≒ rose bengal. On the other hand, rose bengal showed the highest bactericidal activity against Streptococcus mutans, a major causative pathogen of caries, followed by erythrosine and phloxine, both of which showed activity similar to each other. One of the reasons for the discrepancy between the singlet oxygen generating ability and bactericidal activity was the incorporation efficiency of the photosensitizers into the bacterial cells. The incorporation rate of rose bengal was the highest among the three photosensitizers examined in the present study, likely leading to the highest bactericidal activity. Meanwhile, the addition of L-histidine, a singlet oxygen quencher, cancelled the bactericidal activity of any of the three photoactivated photosensitizers, proving that singlet oxygen was responsible for the bactericidal action. Conclusions: It is strongly suggested that rose bengal is a suitable photosensitizer for the plaque disclosing agents as compared to the other two photosensitizers, phloxine and erythrosine, when used for PDT.
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