The global distribution of individual species of oral bacteria demonstrates their ability to survive among their human hosts. Such an ubiquitous existence is the result of efficient transmission of strains and their persistence in the oral environment. Genetic analysis has identified specific clones of pathogenic bacteria causing infection. Presumably, these express virulence-associated characteristics enhancing colonization and survival in their hosts. A similar situation may occur with the oral resident flora, where genetic variants may express specific phenotypic characteristics related to survival. Survival in the mouth is enhanced by dental plaque formation, where persistence is associated with the bacteria's capacity not only to adhere and grow, but also to withstand oxygen, wide fluctuations in pH and carbohydrate concentration, and a diverse array of microbial interactions. Streptococcus mutans has been discussed as a 'model' organism possessing the biochemical flexibility that permits it to persist and dominate the indigenous microflora under conditions of stress.