Dental caries is the most common chronic disease worldwide. It is characterized by the demineralization of tooth enamel caused by acid produced by cariogenic dental bacteria growing on tooth surfaces, termed bacterial biofilms. Cariogenesis is a complex biological process that is influence by multiple factors and is not attributed to a sole causative agent. Instead, caries is associated with multispecies microbial biofilm communities composed of some bacterial species that directly influence the development of a caries lesion and other species that are seemingly benign but must contribute to the community in an uncharacterized way. Clinical analysis of dental caries and its microbial populations is challenging due to many factors including low sensitivity of clinical measurement tools, variability in saliva chemistry, and variation in the microbiota. Our laboratory has developed an in vitro anaerobic biofilm model for dental carries to facilitate both clinical and basic research-based analyses of the multispecies dynamics and individual factors that contribute to cariogenicity. The rational for development of this system was to improve upon the current models that lack key elements. This model places an emphasis on physiological relevance and ease of maintenance and reproducibility. The uniqueness of the model is based on integrating four critical elements: 1) a biofilm community composed of four distinct and representative species typically associated with dental caries, 2) a semi-defined synthetic growth medium designed to mimic saliva, 3) physiologically relevant biofilm growth substrates, and 4) a novel biofilm reactor device designed to facilitate the maintenance and analysis. Specifically, human tooth sections or hydroxyapatite discs embedded into poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) discs are incubated for an initial 24 hr in a static inverted removable substrate (SIRS) biofilm reactor at 37°C under anaerobic conditions in artificial saliva (CAMM) without sucrose in the presence of 1 X 106 cells/ml of each Actinomyces odontolyticus, Fusobacterium nucleatum, Streptococcus mutans, and Veillonella dispar. During days 2 and 3 the samples are maintained continually in CAMM with various exposures to 0.2% sucrose; all of the discs are transferred into fresh medium every 24 hr.
To validate that this model is an appropriate in vitro representation of a caries-associated multispecies biofilm, research aims were designed to test the following overarching hypothesis: an in vitro anaerobic biofilm composed of four species (S. mutans, V. dispar, A. odontolyticus, and F. nucleatum) will form a stable biofilm with a community profile that changes in response to environmental conditions and exhibits a cariogenic
potential. For these experiments the biofilms as described above were exposed on days 2 and 3 to either CAMM lacking sucrose (no sucrose), CAMM with 0.2% sucrose (constant sucrose), or were transferred twice a day for 1 hr each time into 0.2% sucrose (intermittent sucrose). Four types of analysis were performed: 1) fluorescence microscopy of biofilms stained with Syto 9 and hexidium iodide to determine the biofilm architecture, 2) quantitative PCR (qPCR) to determine the cell number of each species percm2, 3) vertical scanning interferometry (VSI) to determine the cariogenic potential of the biofilms, and 4) tomographic pH imaging using radiometric fluorescence microscopy after exposure to pH sensitive nanoparticles to measure the micro-environmental pH. The qualitative and quantitative results reveal the expected dynamics of the community profile when exposed to different sucrose conditions and the cariogenic potential of this in vitro four-species anaerobic biofilm model, thus confirming its usefulness for future analysis of primary and secondary dental caries.
Development and characterization of an in vitro four-species anaerobic dental biofilm model