Methods for microscopic characterization of oral biofilms: analysis of colonization, microstructure, and molecular transport phenomena

Adv Dent Res. 1997 Apr;11(1):133-49. doi: 10.1177/08959374970110010401.


Assessment of the role of biofilm microstructure in biofilm-specific activities requires non-destructive measurement techniques for parameterization of structural characteristics in parallel with relevant biochemical and physiological data. This paper briefly reviews some current methods for biofilm structural analysis, with emphasis on new developments in optical imaging and mathematical modeling methods. Fluorescence imaging studies of bacterial colonization events occurring on exposed model tooth surfaces indicated that bacterial adhesion to sessile organisms was of central importance to the early colonization process and that this occurred in a non-random manner. Structural studies of mature biofilms by confocal microscopy demonstrated the spatial distribution of individual species using fluorescent antibodies. Biofilms grown under different physiological conditions exhibited differences in structure, and methods were developed for parameterizing the spatial orientations of the bacteria. Diffusive processes within biofilm microstructures were studied using a random walk model in both 2-D and 3-D. Modeling of convective flow within biofilm microstructures was achieved by application of lattice Boltzmann methodology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriological Techniques*
  • Biofilms* / growth & development
  • Biological Transport
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dental Plaque / microbiology*
  • Diffusion
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Models, Biological*