BACKGROUND/AIMS: Severe early childhood caries is a microbial infection that severely compromises the dentition of young children. The aim of this study was to characterize the microbiota of severe early childhood caries.
METHODS: Dental plaque samples from 2- to 6-year-old children were analyzed using 16S rRNA gene cloning and sequencing, and by specific PCR amplification for Streptococcus mutans and Bifidobacteriaceae species.
RESULTS: Children with severe caries (n = 39) had more dental plaque and gingival inflammation than caries-free children (n = 41). Analysis of phylotypes from operational taxonomic unit analysis of 16S rRNA clonal metalibraries from severe caries and caries-free children indicated that while libraries differed significantly (p < 0.0001), there was increased diversity than detected in this clonal analysis. Using the Human Oral Microbiome Database, 139 different taxa were identified. Within the limits of this study, caries-associated taxa included Granulicatella elegans (p < 0.01) and Veillonella sp. HOT-780 (p < 0.01). The species associated with caries-free children included Capnocytophaga gingivalis (p < 0.01), Abiotrophia defectiva (p < 0.01), Lachnospiraceae sp. HOT-100 (p < 0.05), Streptococcus sanguinis (p < 0.05) and Streptococcus cristatus (p < 0.05). By specific PCR, S. mutans (p < 0.005) and Bifidobacteriaceae spp. (p < 0.0001) were significantly associated with severe caries.
CONCLUSION: Clonal analysis of 80 children identified a diverse microbiota that differed between severe caries and caries-free children, but the association of S. mutans with caries was from specific PCR analysis, not from clonal analysis, of samples.