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Oral microflora in children - importance and development in relation to caries and general health (OMIC)

Research project The overall objective of this project is to study the development (composition and diversity) of the microflora from early infancy to early childhood and evaluate this in relation to the establishment of opportunistic bacterial species, caries development and other health factors in children where the oral microflora may be important for the outcome, such as the development of allergy.

Colonization and stabilization of the intestinal microflora is attributed to the importance of the child's future health. On the other hand, the early colonization and stabilization of the oral microflora is not as well studied. Dental caries in childhood can be a serious condition with pain and difficulty in eating, linked to unpleasant and costly treatments and predispose to caries later in life. Early establishment of the mutans streptococci has inter alia been linked to the risk of caries. However, the presence of mutans streptococci explains only a part of the disease variability in the population. By simultaneously considering and assessing the overall composition of the biofilms in the mouth, which is possible with the new molecular biological and statistical modeling methods, we will gain increased knowledge of the biofilm's ecology in relation to health and disease, both in general health and locally in the mouth. The hypothesis is that early bacterial ecology in the mouth has long-term favourable / unfavourable health effects.

Head of project

Pernilla Lif Holgerson
Associate professor, senior consultant dentist

Project overview

Project period:

Start date: 2011-12-01

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Odontology

Research area


Project description

Teeth and mucous membranes in the mouth and other gastrointestinal tract are covered with bacteria that are arranged in a biofilm. The composition of the biofilm's bacterial society varies between individuals and surfaces and has been linked to being healthy but also to develop disease, for example dental caries. In total, more than 700 species have been identified in the biofilm in the mouth, some of which are not yet possible to grow. Some think this is an understatement. In recent decades, the ability to study the biofilm's many bacterial species has been developed at the same time with methods where bacterial DNA is characterized. Such a method is NGS (New Generation Sequencing).
The aim of this project is to study the diversity of biofilms in the mouth and the development from early infancy to early childhood and evaluate this in relation to caries development and general health. The hypothesis is that early bacterial ecology in the mouth, as reported for the intestine, has long term favorable / adverse health effects.
In a cohort of more than 200 children, these factors are studied. The children's mouth is swabbed at 48 hours, 3 and 18 months, and at 3 and 5 years saliva and biofilm from the teeth and caries are recorded. Other samples collected are faeces (3 months and 5 years), breast milk (3 months) and blood (at 5 years). Biofilm is collected from the mothers at the 48-hour visit. 16S rDNA is amplified and will be analyzed by NGS. Information about diet, oral hygiene, antibiotic paints, etc. is collected with questionnaires and from records. By looking at the overall composition of the biofilms in the mouth, knowledge about the biofilm's ecology in relation to health and caries disease will be generated and thus also the basis for early health promotion. The study is expected to increase knowledge about the development of the oral microflora of the very young child, as well as the importance of breastfeeding for the establishment of bacteria associated with caries, and thus the possibility of improved information on caries prevention for care takers, pregnant women and toddlers.

Latest update: 2019-07-02