Physiological approaches to the control of oral biofilms.

Phillip Marsh*, D. J. Bradshaw

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


Evidence that physiological strategies may be potential routes for oral biofilm control has come from (i) observations of the variations in the intra-oral distribution of members of the resident oral microflora, (ii) changes in plaque composition in health and disease, and (iii) data from laboratory model systems. Key physiological factors that were identified as significant in modulating the microflora included the local pH, redox potential (Eh), and nutrient availability. Increases in mutans streptococci and lactobacilli occur at sites with caries; growth of these species is selectively enhanced at low pH. In contrast, periodontal diseases are associated with plaque accumulation, followed by an inflammatory host response. The increases in Gram-negative, proteolytic, and obligately anaerobic bacteria reflect a low redox potential and a change in nutrient status due to the increased flow of gingival crevicular fluid (GCF). Consequently, physiological strategies for oral biofilm control should focus on reducing the frequency of low pH in plaque by (i) inhibiting acid production, (ii) using sugar substitutes, and (iii) promoting alkali generation from arginine or urea supplements. Similarly, strategies to make the pocket environment less favorable to periodonto-pathogens include (i) anti-inflammatory agents to reduce the flow of (and hence nutrient supply by) GCF, (ii) bacterial protease inhibitors, and (iii) redox agents to raise the Eh locally. Most laboratory and clinical findings support the concept of physiological control. However, some data suggest that the ordered structure and metabolically interactive organization of mature dental plaque could generate a community with a high level of homeostasis that is relatively resistant to deliberate external manipulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-185
Number of pages10
JournalAdvances in dental research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1997


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