The aims of this study were to evaluate the growth of Streptococcus sanguis on hydroxyapatite, bovine enamel and polytetrafluoroethylene substrata in a constant depth film fermentor, and to determine the effects of three antimicrobial-containing mouthwashes on biofilm formation and bacterial viability on hydroxyapatite and enamel. There was little difference in the final cell density (5 x 10(4) cfu mm-2) of the Strep. sanguis biofilm on the three substrata. When hydroxyapatite-grown biofilms were exposed to the mouthwashes for 1 min, the one containing triclosan (T) proved the most effective. The chlorhexidine-containing mouthwash (CX) also achieved significant kills. The T-containing mouthwash was the most effective at killing biofilms grown on enamel. Pre-treatment of hydroxyapatite with CX, cetylpyridium chloride (CPC) or T for 1 min resulted in undetectable biofilm formation after 8 h. After 8 h of growth, only biofilms grown on enamel discs pre-treated with CX showed a reduction in the number of viable organisms. In conclusion, the results of this study have shown that while growth of Strep. sanguis on hydroxyapatite and enamel were similar, the ability of antimicrobial agents to prevent the accumulation of viable bacteria depended on the nature of the substratum.