Streptococcus sobrinus is known to possess cariogenic properties in vitro. It can produce acid in large amounts and it has the capacity to adhere to enamel and other surfaces. However, most studies on cariogenicity have been performed with laboratory strains that have been subcultured over long periods of time. Therefore, the cariogenicity and acidogenicity of 9 fresh isolates of both S. sobrinus and Streptococcus mutans from human dental plaque were compared. The bacteria were inoculated into the oral cavity of rats. The rats were fed diet SSP 20/5, containing 20% sucrose and 5% glucose. After the experimental period of 42 days, the amount of caries was assessed and bacterial counts were determined using monoclonal antibodies. Four out of 9 S. sobrinus strains and 3 out of 9 S. mutans strains did not colonize the rats. Colonizing strains constituted 39-78% of the total anaerobic cultivable microflora. The numbers of advanced dentinal lesions in the fissures of the rats colonized with S. mutans were significantly lower than those colonized with S. sobrinus (p less than 0.05). S. sobrinus produced acid more rapidly than S. mutans in a pH-stat system at pH values between 6.5 and 5.0 (p less than 0.01). The results indicate that fresh isolates of S. sobrinus are more cariogenic in rats than fresh isolates of S. mutans. This is possibly due to differences in glycolytic properties of these two species.