, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 169-175

Dental plaque as a biofilm

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Abstract

Dental plaque is the diverse microbial community found on the tooth surface embedded in a matrix of polymers of bacterial and salivary origin. Once a tooth surface is cleaned, a conditioning film of proteins and glycoproteins is adsorbed rapidly to the tooth surface. Plaque formation involves the interaction between early bacterial colonisers and this film (the acquired enamel pellicle). To facilitate colonisation of the tooth surface, some receptors on salivary molecules are only exposed to bacteria once the molecule is adsorbed to a surface. Subsequently, secondary colonisers adhere to the already attached early colonisers (co-aggregation) through specific molecular interactions. These can involve protein-protein or carbohydrate-protein (lectin) interactions, and this process contributes to determining the pattern of bacterial succession. As the biofilm develops, gradients in biologically significant factors develop, and these permit the co-existence of species that would be incompatible with each other in a homogeneous environment. Dental plaque develops naturally, but it is also associated with two of the most prevalent diseases affecting industrialised societies (caries and periodontal diseases). Future strategies to control dental plaque will be targeted to interfering with the formation, structure and pattern of development of this biofilm.