Dental caries - not just holes in teeth! A perspective

Mol Oral Microbiol. 2016 Jun;31(3):228-33. doi: 10.1111/omi.12132. Epub 2015 Oct 12.


Cavitation in teeth results from a pathogenic process termed dental caries that has occurred on the tooth surface for weeks or even years. Accumulation of dental plaque (biofilm) on the tooth is usually the first manifestation of the disease. Although acid production is the immediate and proximal cause of dissolution of teeth; it is the milieu within which the acid is formed that should be of primary concern. Focusing on the 'critical pH' has detracted attention from the more biological aspects (biofilm formation) of dental caries. Dental caries is unique; it is a biological process occurring on essentially an inert surface. Investigation of the multitude of interactions occurring in plaque ranging from enamel interfaces to surfaces of bacteria and matrices poses challenges worthy of the best scientific minds. The mouth clearly offers unique opportunities to investigate the multi facets of biofilm formation in vivo, generating data that have relevance way beyond the mouth. Prevention of this ubiquitous disease, dental caries, continues to present serious challenges. The public health benefits of fluoride delivered in its various formats are well recognized. Nevertheless, additional preventive approaches are required. Overcoming the rapid clearance of agents from the mouth is particularly challenging. Building on the polymerizing capacity of glucosyltransferases it may be possible to incorporate a therapeutic agent into the matrix plaque, thereby delivering therapeutic agents precisely to where they are needed.

Keywords: biofilms; dental caries; diffusion; glucosyltransferase; matrix; saliva.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biofilms / growth & development
  • Dental Caries / microbiology*
  • Dental Caries / physiopathology*
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control
  • Dental Caries / therapy
  • Dental Plaque / chemistry
  • Dental Plaque / microbiology*
  • Fluorides
  • Glucosyltransferases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Streptococcus mutans / physiology


  • Acids
  • Glucosyltransferases
  • Fluorides