Salivary alpha-amylase: role in dental plaque and caries formation

Crit Rev Oral Biol Med. 1993;4(3-4):301-7. doi: 10.1177/10454411930040030701.


Salivary alpha-amylase, one of the most plentiful components in human saliva, has at least three distinct biological functions. The enzymatic activity of alpha-amylase undoubtedly plays a role in carbohydrate digestion. Amylase in solution binds with high affinity to a selected group of oral streptococci, a function that may contribute to bacterial clearance and nutrition. The fact that alpha-amylase is also found in acquired enamel pellicle suggests a role in the adhesion of alpha-amylase-binding bacteria. All of these biological activities seem to depend on an intact enzyme conformation. Binding of alpha-amylase to bacteria and teeth may have important implications for dental plaque and caries formation. alpha-Amylase bound to bacteria in plaque may facilitate dietary starch hydrolysis to provide additional glucose for metabolism by plaque microorganisms in close proximity to the tooth surface. The resulting lactic acid produced may be added to the pool of acid in plaque to contribute to tooth demineralization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Bacterial Adhesion
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena*
  • Dental Caries / etiology*
  • Dental Caries / microbiology
  • Dental Pellicle
  • Dental Plaque / etiology*
  • Dental Plaque / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Saliva / enzymology*
  • Salivary Proteins and Peptides / metabolism
  • Salivary Proteins and Peptides / physiology*
  • alpha-Amylases / metabolism
  • alpha-Amylases / physiology*


  • Salivary Proteins and Peptides
  • alpha-Amylases