Pulp and plaque microbiotas of children with severe early childhood caries

Natalia I. Chalmers, Kevin Oh, Christopher V. Hughes, Nooruddin Pradhan, Eleni Kanasi, Ygal Ehrlich, Floyd E. Dewhirst, Anne C.R. Tanner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


Background and objective: Bacterial invasion into pulps of primary teeth can lead to infection and premature tooth loss in children. This pilot study aimed to explore whether the microbiota of carious exposures of dental pulps resembles that of carious dentin or that of infected root canals. Design: Children with severe early childhood caries were studied. Children were consented and extent of caries, plaque, and gingivitis measured. Bacteria were sampled from carious lesion biofilms and vital carious exposures of pulps, and processed by anaerobic culture. Isolates were characterized from partial sequences of the 16S rRNA gene and identified by comparison with taxa in the Human Oral Microbiome Database (http://www.HOMD.org). The microbiotas of carious lesions and dental pulps were compared using univariate and multivariate approaches. Results: The microbiota of cariously exposed pulps was similar in composition to that of carious lesion biofilms except that fewer species/taxa were identified from pulps. The major taxa identified belonged to the phyla Firmicutes (mainly streptococci) and Actinobacteria (mainly Actinomyces species). Actinomyces and Selenomonas species were associated with carious lesions whereas Veillonella species, particularly Veillonella dispar was associated with pulps. Other bacteria detected in pulps included Streptococcus mutans, Parascardovia denticolens, Bifidobacterium longum, and several Lactobacillus and Actinomyces species. By principal, component analysis pulp microbiotas grouped together, whereas those in caries biofilms were widely dispersed. Conclusions: We conclude that the microbiota of cariously exposed vital primary pulps is composed of a subset of species associated with carious lesions. Vital primary pulps had a dominant Firmicutes and Actinobacteria microbiota which contrasts with reports of endodontic infections which can harbor a gramnegative microbiota. The microbiota of exposed primary pulps may provide insight into bacterial species at the forefront of caries invasion in dentinal lesions that can invade into the pulp and the nature of species that need suppressing for successful pulp therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Oral Microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • 16S rRNA
  • Culture
  • Parascardovia
  • Streptococcus mutans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry (miscellaneous)
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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    Chalmers, N. I., Oh, K., Hughes, C. V., Pradhan, N., Kanasi, E., Ehrlich, Y., Dewhirst, F. E., & Tanner, A. C. R. (2015). Pulp and plaque microbiotas of children with severe early childhood caries. Journal of Oral Microbiology, 7(1), 1-8. https://doi.org/10.3402/jom.v7.25951