The diversity between Streptococcus mutans clinical isolates from 5-year-old children and their mothers in two South African ethnic groups was investigated. The gtfB gene encoding for glucosyltransferase (EC 22.214.171.124), an enzyme responsible for the synthesis of extracellular polysaccharides was characterized by PCR-RFLP with HaeIII restriction enzyme digestion. Forty-seven children were examined for dental caries and 128 S. mutans clinical isolates cultured from samples of their saliva and plaque and from the saliva of their mothers. Thirty-three children had active caries (70%) and the remainder (n = 14) were caries-free. Caries prevalence was significantly different (p = 0.02) between black African and coloured children, but no differences were found between gtfB amplitypes by caries or ethnic grouping. Thirty-four (27%) of the S. mutans clinical isolates investigated did not ferment melibiose. Melibiose-negative phenotypes (n = 10) isolated from four families showed gtfB RFLP patterns identical to each other. Mothers and children harboured between one and three amplitypes. GtfB amplitypes were identical in 17 families (17/47), of which nine only were identical to S. mutans reference strains. The percentage match between S. mutans amplitype from mothers and their children was low (13%) in the caries-free group compared to children with caries (44%). RFLP analysis of the gtfB gene showed the diversity of S. mutans genotypes within two South African populations that were acquired from mothers and other sources.