Caries Causing Bacteria

The surfaces of all teeth are normally covered with a biofilm (plaque) composed of a range of bacterial species embedded in a sticky organic material produced by the metabolic activity of specialized bacteria. Colonization of the surfaces of the teeth starts as soon as they erupt in a baby's mouth (from about

6 months of age) and continues throughout life. There is evidence to suggest that the initial colonization of a baby's teeth with cariogenic bacteria may arise by infection from the mother's mouth. The common practice of sampling the food in a baby's dish, to check that it is not too hot, using the same spoon that is to be used to feed the baby may be a particularly effective way of transferring bacteria from carer to baby. Brushing the teeth with a toothbrush will remove part, but not all, of this film and its accompanying bacterial population. Many of the bacteria present are harmless, but a number of species are capable both of metabolically converting carbohydrates to acids (acidogenic bacteria) and of continuing to be metabolically active when the local pH has become too acid for most bacteria to tolerate. It is these bacteria that cause caries.

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