Streptococcus mutans often adopts a sessile biofilm lifestyle that differs greatly from that of free-living cells. Biofilm formation represents a protected mode of growth that allows cells to survive in hostile environments. In this study, in vitro comparative transcriptome analysis was carried out to identify genes that are differentially expressed in biofilm of S. mutans compared with free-living cells. DNA-microarray analyses indicated that about 12 % of genes showed significant differential expression: 139 were activated and 104 were repressed in biofilm vs the planktonic environment. The differential expression of 20 selected genes was confirmed by real-time RT-PCR. In addition, regulation of expression of these genes during biofilm development was tested in 100 and 400 microm deep biofilms. Direct comparison of optical images consistently demonstrated that changes in biofilm thickness are accompanied by significant shifts in cell viability. From evaluation of gene expression patterns, it was shown that the majority of the genes tested were significantly down-regulated in 400 vs 100 microm deep biofilms. This study provides a genome-scale synopsis and adds important insights into gene expression in biofilm development processes of S. mutans, which are strongly associated with the pathogenesis of dental diseases.