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Biofilm: A New View of Plaque

Course Number: 42


Despite the best efforts of dental health professionals, oral infections are still widespread. Nearly 92% of U.S. adults between 20 and 64 have had dental caries, and 26% of adults in that age group have untreated dental caries.1 A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 47% of American adults have mild, moderate, or severe periodontitis. 2

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Figure 1. Gingivitis.

There is universal recognition these oral infections are multifactorial, with specific bacteria residing in intraoral plaques as a necessary, but not sufficient cause of disease. Exactly how these plaque-dwelling microorganisms (Figure 2) cause oral diseases is not completely clear. How dental plaque and its resident microorganisms are viewed is dictated by the analytical tools used to study it. Consequently, this influences the strategies used to control and prevent dental diseases.3 During the past three decades newer scientific methods have changed the view of dental plaque so dental scientists now see it as a biofilm.4

Image: Oral microorganisms in dental plaque showing typical corn-cob structure of bacterium.

Figure 2. Plaque-dwelling microorganisms.

Oral microorganisms in dental plaque showing typical "corn-cob" structure of bacterium.