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Oral Dis. 2017 Apr;23(3):276-286. doi: 10.1111/odi.12509. Epub 2016 Jul 4.

A practical guide to the oral microbiome and its relation to health and disease.

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Department of Microbiology, The Forsyth Institute, Cambridge, MA, USA.
New England BioLabs, Ipswich, MA, USA.
Department of Oral Medicine, Infection & Immunity, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Boston, MA, USA.


The oral microbiome is incredibly complex with the average adult harboring about 50-100 billion bacteria in the oral cavity, which represent about 200 predominant bacterial species. Collectively, there are approximately 700 predominant taxa of which less than one-third still have not yet been grown in vitro. Compared to other body sites, the oral microbiome is unique and readily accessible. There is extensive literature available describing the oral microbiome and discussing the roles that bacteria may play in oral health and disease. However, the purpose of this review is not to rehash these detailed studies but rather to educate the reader with understanding the essence of the oral microbiome, namely that there are abundant bacteria in numbers and types, that there are molecular methods to rapidly determine bacterial associations, that there is site specificity for colonization of the host, that there are specific associations with oral health and disease, that oral bacteria may serve as biomarkers for non-oral diseases, and that oral microbial profiles may have potential use to assess disease risk.


16S rDNA; bacterial associations; next-generation sequencing; oral microbiome

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