The cariogenic dental biofilm: good, bad or just something to control?

Brazilian Oral Research
Braz. oral res. vol.23 supl.1 São Paulo 2009


This paper discusses the role of dental biofilm and adjunctive therapies in the management of dental caries. Dental biofilm is a site of bacterial proliferation and growth, in addition to being a location of acid production. It also serves as a reservoir for calcium exchange between the tooth and saliva. The salivary pellicle, a protein-rich biofilm layer, regulates the reaction between tooth surface, saliva and erosive acids. The protective effects of this pellicle on enamel are well established. However, understanding the effects of the pellicle/biofilm interaction in protecting dentin from erosive conditions requires further research. Saliva interacts with the biofilm, and is important in reducing the cariogenic effects of dental plaque as acidogenic bacteria consume fermentable carbohydrates producing acids that may result in tooth demineralization. Adequate supplies of healthy saliva can provide ingredients for successful remineralization. Strategies for managing the cariogenic biofilm are discussed with emphasis on the effectiveness of over-the-counter (OTC) products. However, since many toothpaste components have been altered recently, new clinical trials may be required for true validation of product effectiveness. A new generation of calcium-based remineralizing technologies may offer the ability to reverse the effects of demineralization. Nevertheless, remineralization is a microscopic subsurface phenomenon, and it will not macroscopically replace tooth structure lost in a cavitated lesion. Optimal management of cavitations requires early detection. This, coupled with advances in adhesive restorative materials and microsurgical technique, will allow the tooth to be restored with minimal destruction to nearby healthy tissue.

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