The influence of surface roughness and surface-free energy on supra- and subgingival plaque formation in man. A review of the literature

J Clin Periodontol. 1995 Jan;22(1):1-14. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-051x.1995.tb01765.x.


In the oral cavity, an open growth system, bacterial adhesion to the non-shedding surfaces is for most bacteria the only way to survive. This adhesion occurs in 4 phases: the transport of the bacterium to the surface, the initial adhesion with a reversible and irreversible stage, the attachment by specific interactions, and finally the colonization in order to form a biofilm. Different hard surfaces are available in the oral cavity (teeth, filling materials, dental implants, or prostheses), all with different surface characteristics. In a healthy situation, a dynamic equilibrium exists on these surfaces between the forces of retention and those of removal. However, an increased bacterial accumulation often results in a shift toward disease. 2 mechanisms favour the retention of dental plaque: adhesion and stagnation. The aim of this review is to examine the influence of the surface roughness and the surface free energy in the adhesion process. Both in vitro and in vivo studies underline the importance of both variables in supragingival plaque formation. Rough surfaces will promote plaque formation and maturation, and high-energy surfaces are known to collect more plaque, to bind the plaque more strongly and to select specific bacteria. Although both variables interact with each other, the influence of surface roughness overrules that of the surface free energy. For the subgingival environment, with more facilities for microorganisms to survive, the importance of surface characteristics dramatically decreases. However, the influence of surface roughness and surface-free energy on supragingival plaque justifies the demand for smooth surfaces with a low surface-free energy in order to minimise plaque formation, thereby reducing the occurrence of caries and periodontitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Adhesion / physiology*
  • Biofilms / growth & development*
  • Dental Enamel / microbiology
  • Dental Enamel / pathology
  • Dental Materials / chemistry
  • Dental Plaque / physiopathology*
  • Dentin / microbiology
  • Dentin / pathology
  • Electrochemistry
  • Humans
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Surface Properties
  • Surface Tension


  • Dental Materials