The multifaceted roles of antimicrobial peptides in oral diseases

Mol Oral Microbiol. 2021 Jun;36(3):159-171. doi: 10.1111/omi.12333. Epub 2021 Mar 22.


Antimicrobial peptides are naturally occurring protein molecules with antibacterial, antiviral and/or antifungal activity. Some antimicrobial peptides kill microorganisms through direct binding with negatively charged microbial surfaces. This action disrupts the cytoplasmic membrane and leads to the leakage of the cytoplasm. In addition, they are involved in the innate immune response. Antimicrobial peptides play an important role in oral health, as natural antimicrobial peptides are the first line of host defence in response to microbial infection. The level of natural antimicrobial peptides increases during severe disease conditions and play a role in promoting the healing of oral tissues. However, they are insufficient for eliminating pathogenic micro-organisms. The variability of the oral environment can markedly reduce the effect of natural antimicrobial peptides. Thus, researchers are developing synthetic antimicrobial peptides with promising stability and biocompatibility. Synthetic antimicrobial peptides are a potential alternative to traditional antimicrobial therapy. Pertinent to oral diseases, the deregulation of antimicrobial peptides is involved in the pathogenesis of dental caries, periodontal disease, mucosal disease and oral cancer, where they can kill pathogenic microorganisms, promote tissue healing, serve as biomarkers and inhibit tumor cells. This narrative review provides an overview of the multifaceted roles of antimicrobial peptides in oral diseases.

Keywords: antimicrobial; caries; peptides; prevention; remineralization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Infective Agents* / pharmacology
  • Dental Caries*
  • Humans
  • Periodontal Diseases*
  • Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Pore Forming Cytotoxic Proteins