In Sickness and in Health-What Does the Oral Microbiome Mean to Us? An Ecological Perspective

Adv Dent Res. 2018 Feb;29(1):60-65. doi: 10.1177/0022034517735295.


The oral microbiome is natural and has a symbiotic relationship with the host by delivering important benefits. In oral health, a dynamic balance is reached between the host, the environment, and the microbiome. However, the frequent intake of sugar and/or reductions in saliva flow results in extended periods of low pH in the biofilm, which disrupts this symbiotic relationship. Such conditions inhibit the growth of beneficial species and drive the selection of bacteria with an acid-producing/acid-tolerating phenotype, thereby increasing the risk of caries (dysbiosis). A more detailed understanding of the interdependencies and interactions that exist among the resident microbiota in dental biofilms, and an increased awareness of the relationship between the host and the oral microbiome, is providing new insights and fresh opportunities to promote symbiosis and prevent dysbiosis. These include modifying the oral microbiome (e.g., with prebiotics and probiotics), manipulating the oral environment to selectively favor the growth of beneficial species, and moderating the growth and metabolism of the biofilm to reduce the likelihood of dysbiosis. Evidence is provided to suggest that the regular provision of interventions that deliver small but relevant benefits, consistently over a prolonged period, can support the maintenance of a symbiotic oral microbiome.

Keywords: biofilm; caries; dental plaque; dysbiosis; ecology; symbiosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena
  • Dental Caries / microbiology
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control
  • Dysbiosis / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Microbiota / physiology*
  • Mouth / microbiology*
  • Mouth Diseases / microbiology*
  • Mouth Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Oral Health*
  • Prebiotics
  • Probiotics
  • Symbiosis / physiology


  • Prebiotics