A recent study has found that changes in the composition of bacteria in the mouth signal the start of tooth decay in children.

A community of microbes resides in the oral cavity and the bacterial composition changes from infancy to adulthood. Dental caries or tooth decay is a major tooth infection in children and methods to detect the onset of tooth decay are needed to prevent severe infection and tooth loss.

To determine how oral bacteria influence the development of tooth decay in children, a group of researchers examined the types of bacteria found in the saliva and dental plaque of preschool children aged 4 to 6 years and followed their dental health for 2 years. All the children had a similar lifestyle, diet, and oral health regimen. The study found variations in the oral bacterial composition with relation to the age of the children. In healthy children, the oral bacterial community was more diverse compared to children with a tooth infection.

Most importantly, the study found that a drastic change in the oral microbial composition occurred before symptoms of tooth decay appeared. In the study, a group of children with healthy-looking teeth, whose oral bacterial composition had significantly changed from the previous dental exam, went on to develop tooth decay. These results show that a profound change in the oral microbial community is an important signal that could be used in developing methods to predict and prevent tooth decay in susceptible children.


Teng F, Yang F, Huang S, Bo C, Xu ZZ, Amir A, Knight R, Ling J, Xu J. Prediction of early childhood caries via spatial-temporal variations of oral microbiota. Cell Host & Microbe. 2015; 18: 296-306. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2015.08.005






Written by Ana Victoria Pilar, PhD

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