Dental caries: from infection to prevention

Med Sci Monit. 2007 Nov;13(11):RA196-203.


Dental caries is one of the most prevalent diseases in humans, second only to the common cold. It causes irreversible damage to the grinding machinery involved in the intake of food and hence causes great distress. The changes in the homeostasis of the oral cavity with an overgrowth of Streptococcus mutans is recognized as the primary cause of the disease. Most treatments are now aimed at either elimination of this bacterium or suppression of its virulence. S. mutans strongly adheres and releases acids by the fermentation of carbohydrates, leading to the demineralization of the tooth. This attachment is mediated mostly by the interaction of surface proteins and bacterial polysaccharides. Ambiguities in the basic treatment of dental caries, such as the use of fluoride and antibiotics, vitalize the deployment of probiotic therapies for its cure. The growing research in herbal treatments has led to the discovery of various phytochemicals to limit the virulence of S. mutans. This review focuses on the properties of S. mutans in cariogenicity and outlines ways to combat dental caries.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Bacterial Adhesion
  • Bacterial Vaccines / pharmacology
  • Bacteriocins / metabolism
  • Biofilms / growth & development
  • Dental Caries / etiology*
  • Dental Caries / microbiology
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control*
  • Dental Caries / therapy
  • Fluorides / administration & dosage
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Oral Hygiene
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Probiotics
  • Streptococcal Infections / etiology
  • Streptococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Streptococcal Infections / prevention & control
  • Streptococcus mutans / pathogenicity
  • Streptococcus mutans / physiology
  • Virulence


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacterial Vaccines
  • Bacteriocins
  • Polysaccharides, Bacterial
  • Fluorides