What is Streptococcus mutans?

June 08, 2023 4 min read

What is Streptococcus mutans?

Streptococcus mutans is a gram-positive bacterium that is commonly found in the human oral cavity. It is one of the main bacteria responsible for tooth decay and dental caries. S. mutans is part of the normal oral microbiota, but its overgrowth can cause significant harm to the teeth and gums. In this article, we will discuss the characteristics of S. mutans, its role in tooth decay, and ways to prevent its overgrowth.

  1. mutans is a non-motile, non-sporulating, and facultatively anaerobic bacterium that belongs to the Streptococcaceae family. It is an oval-shaped bacterium that forms chains or pairs. S. mutans is known for its ability to produce sticky, extracellular polysaccharides called glucans, which allow it to adhere to the tooth surface and form biofilms. These biofilms protect the bacteria from host defenses and antimicrobial agents and enable it to ferment dietary carbohydrates and produce lactic acid, which can cause tooth demineralization and eventually lead to cavities.

The presence of S. mutans in the oral cavity is a significant risk factor for dental caries. Caries is a multifactorial disease that results from the interplay of several factors, including the composition of the oral microbiota, host factors, and dietary habits. The caries process starts when acid-producing bacteria such as S. mutans ferment carbohydrates, producing organic acids that lower the pH of the dental plaque. The acidic environment can then dissolve the tooth enamel, leading to the formation of a cavity.

Prevention of S. mutans overgrowth is essential in maintaining good oral health. The primary approach to preventing S. mutans overgrowth is through good oral hygiene practices such as brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and using mouthwash. A healthy diet low in added sugars and high in fiber can also reduce the risk of S. mutans overgrowth. Moreover, the use of probiotics containing beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium can help in reducing the colonization of S. mutans in the oral cavity. The characteristics of Streptococcus mutans can be summarized:

  • Streptococcus mutans is a type of bacteria that is commonly found in the human mouth and is known to cause dental caries or tooth decay.
  • It is an acidogenic and aciduric bacteria, which means it can produce acids and survive in an acidic environment, leading to demineralization of tooth enamel and the formation of dental caries.
  • S. mutans is also able to form biofilms on the tooth surface, allowing it to adhere and colonize more effectively, making it difficult to remove by normal oral hygiene practices such as brushing and flossing.
  • Risk factors for colonization and growth of S. mutans include poor oral hygiene, a diet high in sugars and carbohydrates, decreased saliva production, and a compromised immune system.
  • The use of fluoride and other remineralizing agents, along with improved oral hygiene practices, can help prevent the growth and colonization of S. mutans and the formation of dental caries.
  • In addition to dental caries, S. mutans has been implicated in the development of other systemic diseases, such as infective endocarditis, pneumonia, and septicemia.
  • Treatment for S. mutans infections may include the use of antibiotics, although antibiotic resistance is a concern with this approach.
  • Strategies to prevent the growth and colonization of S. mutans include the use of probiotics, such as Streptococcus salivarius, which can compete with S. mutans for colonization sites and nutrients in the oral cavity.
  • Other strategies for preventing S. mutans growth include reducing the consumption of sugars and carbohydrates, increasing saliva production through chewing gum or other methods, and maintaining good oral hygiene practices.
  • Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are also important for preventing the formation and progression of dental caries caused by S. mutans.

In conclusion, S. mutans is a gram-positive bacterium that is commonly found in the oral cavity and is a significant risk factor for dental caries. Its ability to produce glucans and form biofilms enables it to adhere to the tooth surface and ferment dietary carbohydrates, producing lactic acid that can cause tooth demineralization. Preventing its overgrowth through good oral hygiene practices, a healthy diet, and the use of probiotics can help in maintaining good oral health.

 

References:

  1. Loesche WJ. Role of Streptococcus mutans in human dental decay. Microbiol Rev. 1986;50(4):353-380. doi:10.1128/MMBR.50.4.353-380.1986
  2. Marsh PD. Dental plaque as a biofilm and a microbial community - implications for health and disease. BMC Oral Health. 2006;6 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S14. doi:10.1186/1472-6831-6-S1-S14
  3. Featherstone JD. The caries balance: contributing factors and early detection. J Calif Dent Assoc. 2003;31(2):129-133.
  4. Sánchez GA, Miozza VA, Delgado A, Busch L, Salanitro JP, Barrio DA. The role of probiotics in the prevention of oral diseases. Microorganisms. 2021;9(4):772. doi:10.3390/microorganisms9040772
  5. Bowen, W. H., & Koo, H. (2011). Biology of Streptococcus mutans-derived glucosyltransferases: role in extracellular matrix formation of cariogenic biofilms. Caries research, 45(1), 69-86.
  6. Marsh, P. D. (2003). Dental plaque as a biofilm and a microbial community-implications for treatment. Journal of oral biosciences, 45(1), 19-26.
  7. Featherstone, J. D. (2009). Dental caries: a dynamic disease process. Australian dental journal, 54(1_suppl), S10-S17.
  8. Bradshaw, D. J., & Marsh, P. D. (1998). Analysis of pH-driven disruption of oral microbial communities in vitro. Caries research, 32(6), 456-462.
  9. Simón-Soro, Á., & Mira, A. (2015). Solving the etiology of dental caries. Trends in microbiology, 23(2), 76-82.
  10. Marsh, P. D. (2006). Dental plaque as a microbial biofilm. Caries research, 38(3), 204-211.
  11. Lee, S. H., & Kim, Y. J. (2017). The role of Streptococcus mutans in the formation of dental caries. Journal of dental hygiene science, 17(4), 228-235.
  12. Cardoso, F. F., Rocha, M. C., & Nascimento, M. M. (2014). Microbiological and immunological aspects of dental caries. Brazilian oral research, 28(spe), 94-101.
  13. Dige, I., Raarup, M. K., Nyengaard, J. R., Kilian, M., & Nyvad, B. (2019). Actinomyces and S. mutans biofilm formation in children with oral malformations. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-12.


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