A study published in the January 2007 issue of the Journal of Clinical Microbiology reports that a new method of genetic profiling may distinguish bacterial populations that cause severe dental decay in children and be used as a basis for intervention and prevention development.

Severe early-childhood caries (S-ECC) is a destructive form of bacterial tooth decay that involves multiple teeth. Although previous studies have indicated streptococcus mutans as a potential agent, researchers have yet to determine if S-ECC is caused by a single strain of bacteria or a group of bacterial species. Prior testing based on cultivation methods has proven difficult because nearly half of the bacteria in saliva and dental plaque are not cultivable.

In the study, researchers collected plaque samples from 20 children, some with S-ECC and some caries-free (CF), and evaluated the difference in bacterial diversity using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), a cultivation-free method that isolates total microbial genome DNA.

The results showed that the S-ECC group exhibited 94.5 bacterial populations while the CF group exhibited 113.4, suggesting that caries-associated bacteria become less diverse as specific groups begin to dominate the plaque biofilm.

[www.sciencedaily.com, January 25, 2007]