The cariogenic effect of starch on oral microcosm grown within the dual constant depth film fermenter

PLoS One. 2021 Oct 20;16(10):e0258881. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0258881. eCollection 2021.


Evidence on the link between starch intake and caries incidence is conflicting, therefore the cariogenicity of starch compared with sucrose was explored using a dual Constant Depth Film Fermenter (dCDFF) biotic model system. Bovine enamel discs were used as a substrate and the dCDFF was inoculated using human saliva. CDFF units were supplemented with artificial saliva growth media at a constant rate to mimic resting salivary flow rate over 14 days. The CDFF units were exposed to different conditions, 2% sucrose or 2% starch 8 times daily and either no additional fluoride or 1450 ppm F- twice daily. Bovine enamel discs were removed at intervals (days 3, 7, 10 and 14) for bacterial enumeration and enamel analysis using Quantitative Light Induced Fluorescence (QLF) and Transverse Microradiography (TMR). Results showed that in the absence of fluoride there was generally no difference in mineral loss between enamel exposed to either sucrose or starch when analysed using TMR and QLF (P > 0.05). In the presence of fluoride by day 14 there was significantly more mineral loss under starch than sucrose when analysed with TMR (P < 0.05). It was confirmed that starch and sucrose are similarly cariogenic within the dCDFF in the absence of fluoride. With the aid of salivary amylase, the bacteria utilise starch to produce an acidic environment similar to that of bacteria exposed to sucrose only. In the presence of fluoride, starch was more cariogenic which may be due to the bacteria producing a more hydrophobic intercellular matrix lowering the penetration of fluoride through the biofilm. This is significant as it indicates that the focus on sugars being the primary cause of caries may need re-evaluating and an increase in focus on carbohydrates is needed as they may be similarly cariogenic as sugars if not more so.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biofilms / growth & development
  • Cattle
  • Dental Enamel / drug effects*
  • Dental Enamel / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Lactobacillus / growth & development
  • Saliva / microbiology*
  • Starch / administration & dosage*
  • Tooth Demineralization / microbiology*
  • Veillonella / growth & development


  • Starch

Grants and funding

This project was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)- GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK) Industrial CASE Studentship (#15220088). The funder provided support in the form of salaries for authors [DJB, RJML], but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section.