Oral biofilms: molecular analysis, challenges, and future prospects in dental diagnostics
Thuy Do,1 Deirdre Devine,1 Philip D Marsh1,2
1Department of Oral Biology, Leeds Dental Institute, Leeds, 2Health Protection Agency Microbiology Services, Salisbury, UK
Abstract: Oral biofilms are functionally and structurally organized polymicrobial communities that are embedded in an extracellular matrix of exopolymers on mucosal and dental surfaces. These biofilms are found naturally in health, and provide benefits to the host. However, this relationship can break down, and disease can occur; disease is associated with a shift in the balance of the species within these biofilms. Simple diagnostic tests have been developed that involve the culture of selected bacteria, eg, those implicated in dental caries, facilitating an assessment of risk of further disease in individual patients. However, oral diseases have a complex etiology, and because only around 50% of oral biofilm can be grown at present, culture-independent molecular-based approaches are being developed that give a more comprehensive assessment of the presence of a range of putative pathogens in samples. The diversity of these biofilms creates challenges in the interpretation of findings, and future work is investigating the ability of novel techniques to detect biological activity and function in oral biofilms, rather than simply providing a catalogue of microbial names.
Keywords: oral biofilms, dental plaque, dental diagnostics, molecular techniques, polymerase chain reaction, next-generation sequencing
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