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Caries Res. 2003 Nov-Dec;37(6):395-403.

The acid-tolerant microbiota associated with plaque from initial caries and healthy tooth surfaces.

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Department of Oral Biology, Faculty of Odontology, Malmö University, Malmö, Sweden.


The intent of this study was to compare the inherent acid tolerance of bacteria in samples of dental plaque from tooth sites in subjects with and without initial caries. Plaque was collected from approximal surfaces showing early enamel caries and from healthy tooth surfaces in the same subjects, as well as from enamel surfaces of caries-free individuals. In addition to plating on blood agar, the plaque samples were plated directly on non-selective solid agar medium buffered to pH 7.0, 6.0, 5.5, 5.0, 4.5 and 4.0 to avoid any loss of adaptation to acid during primary isolation of plaque bacteria. The results showed that approximately 50% of the total cultivable plaque microbiota from caries, as well as healthy tooth sites, was able to grow at pH 5.5 and 1% at pH 5.0, pH values regarded as critical for the demineralization of tooth enamel. At pH 5.0, members of the genus Streptococcus were the dominant group, but mutans streptococci accounted for less than half of the streptococcal viable count. The other acid-tolerant streptococcal isolates included Streptococcus anginosus, Streptococcus constellatus, Streptococcus gordinii, Streptococcus intermedius, Streptococcus mitis, Streptococcus oralis, Streptococcus salivarius and SStreptococcus sanguis. Analysis of the results indicated that the mutans streptococci in dental plaque were highly variable with respect to acid tolerance, and that both caries and healthy sites harboured significant numbers of mutans streptococci that were not acid-tolerant.

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