Biofilm three-dimensional architecture influences in situ pH distribution pattern on the human enamel surface

Jin Xiao, Anderson T. Hara, Dongyeop Kim, Domenick T. Zero, Hyun Koo, Geelsu Hwang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


To investigate how the biofilm three-dimensional (3D) architecture influences in situ pH distribution patterns on the enamel surface. Biofilms were formed on human tooth enamel in the presence of 1% sucrose or 0.5% glucose plus 0.5% fructose. At specific time points, biofilms were exposed to a neutral pH buffer to mimic the buffering of saliva and subsequently pulsed with 1% glucose to induce re-acidification. Simultaneous 3D pH mapping and architecture of intact biofilms was performed using two-photon confocal microscopy. The enamel surface and mineral content characteristics were examined successively via optical profilometry and microradiography analyses. Sucrose-mediated biofilm formation created spatial heterogeneities manifested by complex networks of bacterial clusters (microcolonies). Acidic regions (pH<5.5) were found only in the interior of microcolonies, which impedes rapid neutralization (taking more than 120 min for neutralization). Glucose exposure rapidly re-created the acidic niches, indicating formation of diffusion barriers associated with microcolonies structure. Enamel demineralization (white spots), rougher surface, deeper lesion and more mineral loss appeared to be associated with the localization of these bacterial clusters at the biofilm-enamel interface. Similar 3D architecture was observed in plaque-biofilms formed in vivo in the presence of sucrose. The formation of complex 3D architectures creates spatially heterogeneous acidic microenvironments in close proximity of enamel surface, which might correlate with the localized pattern of the onset of carious lesions (white spot like) on teeth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-79
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Oral Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Streptococcus mutans
  • biofilms
  • demineralization
  • dental caries
  • exopolysaccharides
  • microcolonies
  • pH microenvironments
  • plaque

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)

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