Ecological study of Streptococcus mutans, Streptococcus sobrinus and Lactobacillus spp. at sub-sites from approximal dental plaque from children

Caries Res. 1998;32(1):51-8. doi: 10.1159/000016430.


Previous immunofluorescence (IF) studies have indicated that Streptococcus mutans may preferentially colonise specific sub-sites within approximal plaque. The present study aimed to extend these observations to other mutans streptococci and lactobacilli in such gingival margin plaque. Two hundred and seventy approximal plaque samples were taken from 90 teeth (3 from each tooth) in 64 children; three gingival margin sub-sites in relation to the contact area: away from (A), to the side of(S) and below (B) the contact area. Samples were processed by indirect IF using high-titred polyclonal anti-S. mutans 'c', anti-S. sobrinus 'd', anti-L. casei and anti-L. acidophilus antisera. An overall positive association was found between S. mutans 'c' and S. sobrinus 'd' (p < 0.001). Significant differences (p < 0.1) were found between the proportional counts at each sub-site for S. mutans 'c': A = 39%, S = 51% and B = 70%, and for S. sobrinus 'd' 21, 33 and 49%. Mutans streptococci (MS) appeared to preferentially colonise the sub-site below the contact area (B = 81%), compared with sub-sites A and S (48 and 62%, respectively). S. mutans 'c' and S. sobrinus 'd' were detected together at subsites A = 12%, S = 22%, and B = 38%, with proportional counts at B sites being higher than those at A (B > A, p < 0.01, and B > S, p < 0.05). Lactobacillus spp. were isolated rarely, and were usually found together with MS. There was a positive relationship between the presence of lactobacilli or MS and caries (white spot lesions only), although these species could frequently be isolated from noncarious sites. The presence of both S. mutans 'c' and S. sobrinus 'd' were strongly correlated with early caries lesions. In addition, this study confirmed the variation in the microflora at different sub-sites within approximal dental plaque.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Child
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Dental Caries / microbiology
  • Dental Enamel / microbiology
  • Dental Plaque / microbiology*
  • Ecology
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Gingiva / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus / growth & development
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus / immunology
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus / physiology*
  • Lactobacillus casei / growth & development
  • Lactobacillus casei / immunology
  • Lactobacillus casei / physiology*
  • Male
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Streptococcus mutans / growth & development
  • Streptococcus mutans / immunology
  • Streptococcus mutans / physiology*
  • Streptococcus sobrinus / growth & development
  • Streptococcus sobrinus / immunology
  • Streptococcus sobrinus / physiology*
  • Symbiosis


  • Antibodies, Bacterial