Distribution of selected bacterial species on intraoral surfaces

J Clin Periodontol. 2003 Jul;30(7):644-54. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-051x.2003.00376.x.


Background/aim: To examine the proportions of 40 bacterial species in samples from 8 oral soft tissue surfaces and saliva in systemically healthy adult subjects and to compare these microbiotas with those of supra- and subgingival plaque.

Methods: Microbial samples were taken from 8 oral soft tissue surfaces of 225 systemically healthy subjects using a "buccal brush". Saliva was taken by expectoration. Forty-four of these subjects provided additional supra- and subgingival plaque samples. Samples were individually evaluated for their content of 40 bacterial species using checkerboard DNA-DNA hybridization. The percentage of total DNA probe count was determined for each species, at each sample location and averaged across subjects. The significance of differences among the proportions of the 40 test species at different sample locations was sought in the 225 and 44 subjects separately using the Quade test and adjusted for multiple comparisons. Cluster analysis was performed using the proportions of the 40 species at the different sample locations using the minimum similarity coefficient and an average unweighted linkage sort. The proportions of each species were averaged across subjects in the resulting cluster groups and the significance of differences was tested using the t-test and ANOVA.

Results: Microbial profiles differed markedly among sample locations in the 225 subjects, with 34 of 40 species differing significantly. Proportions of Veillonella parvula and Prevotella melaninogenica were higher in saliva and on the lateral and dorsal surfaces of the tongue, while Streptococcus mitis and S. oralis were in significantly lower proportions in saliva and on the tongue dorsum. Cluster analysis resulted in the formation of 2 clusters with >85% similarity. Cluster 1 comprised saliva, lateral and dorsal tongue surfaces, while Cluster 2 comprised the remaining soft tissue locations. V. parvula, P. melaninogenica, Eikenella corrodens, Neisseria mucosa, Actinomyces odontolyticus, Fusobacterium periodonticum, F. nucleatum ss vincentii and Porphyromonas gingivalis were in significantly higher proportions in Cluster 1 and S. mitis, S. oralis and S. noxia were significantly higher in Cluster 2. These findings were confirmed using data from the 44 subjects providing plaque samples. The microbial profiles of supra- and subgingival plaque differed from the other sample locations, particularly in the increased proportions of the Actinomyces species. Species of different genera exhibited different proportions on the various intraoral surfaces, but even within the genus Streptococcus, there were differences in colonization patterns. S. oralis, S. mitis and S. constellatus colonized the soft tissues and saliva in higher proportions than the samples from the teeth, while the other 4 streptococcal species examined colonized the dental surfaces in proportions comparable to the soft tissue locations and saliva.

Conclusions: Proportions of bacterial species differed markedly on different intraoral surfaces. The microbiota of saliva was most similar to that of the dorsal and lateral surfaces of the tongue. The microbiotas of the soft tissues resembled each other more than the microbiotas that colonized the teeth both above and below the gingival margin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Dental Plaque / microbiology*
  • Ecosystem
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mouth / microbiology*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Saliva / microbiology


  • DNA, Bacterial