Microbial Complexes and Caries in 17-Year-Olds with and without Streptococcus mutans

J Dent Res. 2018 Mar;97(3):275-282. doi: 10.1177/0022034517731758. Epub 2017 Sep 20.


Streptococcus mutans is a key bacterial species in the caries process, which affects >90% of the population worldwide. However, other acidogenic and aciduric/acidophilic species may contribute to disease development. In Sweden, a country with low prevalences of caries and S. mutans, a significant portion of caries-affected adolescents lack detectable levels of S. mutans. The objectives of the present study were 1) to characterize the tooth biofilm and saliva microbiota of adolescents with caries disease, with or without detectable S. mutans, from tooth biofilm and saliva samples and 2) to assess taxa clustering in the tooth biofilm and saliva samples and relate this information to caries status. For 17-y-old participants ( N = 154), enamel and dentin caries (the total number of present carious surfaces in the enamel and dentin) and caries experience (the number of decayed and filled tooth surfaces) were recorded, dental biofilm and saliva samples obtained, and information on medical and lifestyle habits collected. Multiplex 16S rDNA (V3-V4) sequencing of bacterial DNA was performed with the Illumina MiSeq platform. The Human Oral Microbiome Database and the ProbeSeq pipeline were used in the HOMI NGS procedure. In subjects with caries experience, high levels of S. mutans were associated with a few species and low levels with a panel of saccharolytic species. Present caries was similarly associated with a panel of saccharolytic species in subjects without S. mutans. Furthermore, tooth biofilm microbiota could be used to establish 4 clusters of subjects with different caries experiences. In particular, high levels of S. mutans were associated with the presence of a few influential species in multivariate modeling, including Scardovia wiggsiae. By contrast, a panel of less avid lactic acid-producing species was influential in patients with undetectable or low S. mutans levels in such modeling. These findings support a prominent role of S. mutans in infected adolescents but also the ecologic concept, especially in S. mutans-free subjects.

Keywords: 16S; adolescents; high-throughput nucleotide sequencing; microbiota; saliva; tooth biofilm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Biofilms / classification*
  • Dental Caries / epidemiology
  • Dental Caries / microbiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microbiota
  • Saliva / microbiology
  • Streptococcus mutans / isolation & purification*
  • Sweden / epidemiology