Sonication versus the conventional method for evaluation of the dental microbiome: a prospective pilot study

BMC Oral Health. 2022 Aug 12;22(1):348. doi: 10.1186/s12903-022-02374-0.


Objectives: To investigate sonication as a new tool in microbiological probing of dental infections.

Methods: Comparison of a standard probing method: intraoperative swab, with sonication, and vortex of the removed tooth, was performed on 20 carious destructed teeth. Illumina high throughput sequencing of the 16S-rRNA-gene was used for assessing the microbial composition. Antibiotic susceptibility has been assigned based on known resistances of each detected species. Probing procedures were compared using Bland-Altmann-Test, and antibiotic susceptibility using the Friedmann-Test and alpha-adjusted post-hoc-analysis.

Results: In total, 60 samples were analysed: 20 intraoperative swabs, 20 vortex fluids, and 20 sonication fluids. Sonication fluid yielded the highest number of bacterial sequencing reads in all three procedures. Comparing the operational taxonomic units (OTUs) of the identified bacteria, significantly more OTUs were found in sonication fluid samples. Phylum and order abundances varied between the three procedures. Significantly more Actinomycetales have been found in sonication fluid samples compared to swab samples. The assigned resistance rates for the identified bacteria (1.79-31.23%) showed no differences between the tested probing procedures. The lowest resistance rates were found for amoxicillin + clavulanate (3.95%) and levofloxacin (3.40%), with the highest in amoxicillin (30.21%) and clindamycin (21.88%).

Conclusions: By using sonication on extracted teeth, it is possible to get a more comprehensive image of the residing microbial flora compared to the standard procedure. If sonication is not available, vortexing is a potential alternative. In immunocompromised patients, especially when actinomycosis is suspected, sonication should be considered for a more detailed microbiological evaluation of the potential disease-causing microbiome. Due to the high rates of antibiotic resistance, a more targeted antibiotic therapy is favourable. Levofloxacin should be considered as a first-line alternative to amoxicillin + clavulanate in patients with an allergy to penicillin.

Keywords: Antibiotic resistance; Microbiome; Sonication; Tooth extraction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amoxicillin
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bacteria
  • Clavulanic Acid
  • Dental Caries*
  • Humans
  • Levofloxacin
  • Microbiota*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sonication


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Clavulanic Acid
  • Levofloxacin
  • Amoxicillin