Transient acid-impairment of growth ability of oral Streptococcus, Actinomyces, and Lactobacillus: A possible ecological determinant in dental plaque

M. Horiuchi, J. Washio, H. Mayanagi, N. Takahashi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Dental plaque pH decreases to about 4 through bacterial fermentation of carbohydrates and this low pH is maintained for from several minutes to about an hour. Repeated acidification causes demineralization of the tooth surface, resulting in caries formation. The acidification also influences plaque bacteria. Severe acidification kills bacteria efficiently, while physiological acidification, the condition occurring in plaque, kills bacteria partially and may impair growth ability. We, therefore, investigated the effects of physiological acidification on representative caries-related bacteria. Methods: Streptococcus mutans, Streptococcus sobrinus, Streptococcus sanguinis, Streptococcus oralis, Lactobacillus paracasei, and Actinomyces naeslundii were used. Effects of physiological acidification at pH 4.0 on cell viability and growth ability, as well as the growth rate of these bacteria at pH 4.0-7.0, were investigated. Results: Mutans streptococci and Lactobacillus grew at pH 4.0 but the growth of S. sanguinis and S. oralis ceased below pH 4.2 and pH 4.2-4.4, respectively. Acidification at pH 4.0 for 1 h killed 43-89%, 45% and 35-76% of S. sanguinis, S. oralis, and Actinomyces, respectively. Furthermore, assessment of bacterial growth curves revealed that the growth ability of the surviving cells of S. sanguinis, S. oralis and Actinomyces was impaired, but it was recovered within 2-5 h after the environmental pH had returned to 7.0. The acidification neither killed nor impaired the growth of mutans streptococci and Lactobacillus. Conclusions: These results indicate that physiological and transient acidification is not sufficient to kill bacteria, but it causes a temporary acid-impairment of their growth ability, which may function as an ecological determinant for microbial composition in dental plaque.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-324
Number of pages6
JournalOral Microbiology and Immunology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Aug 1


  • Acid impairment
  • Acidification
  • Actinomyces
  • Bacterial growth
  • Cell viability
  • Lactobacillus
  • Streptococcus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Dentistry(all)
  • Microbiology (medical)


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