This article is part of the supplement: Biotechnology and Biomaterials to Reduce the Caries Epidemic

Open Access Proceedings

Technology Development to Explore the Relationship Between Oral Health and the Oral Microbial Community

E Michelle L Starke1, James C Smoot1, Laura M Smoot1, Wen-Tso Liu2, Darrell P Chandler34, Hyun H Lee5 and David A Stahl1*

Author Affiliations

1 Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

2 Environmental Science and Engineering, National University of Singapore, 9 Engineering Drive 1, EA-07-23, Singapore 117576, Singapore

3 Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 S. Cass Avenue, Argonne, IL 60439, USA

4 Akonni Biosystems, Inc., 9702 Woodfield Court, New Market, MD 21774, USA

5 Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

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BMC Oral Health 2006, 6(Suppl 1):S10  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-6-S1-S10

Published: 15 June 2006


The human oral cavity contains a complex microbial community that, until recently, has not been well characterized. Studies using molecular tools have begun to enumerate and quantify the species residing in various niches of the oral cavity; yet, virtually every study has revealed additional new species, and little is known about the structural dynamics of the oral microbial community or how it changes with disease. Current estimates of bacterial diversity in the oral cavity range up to 700 species, although in any single individual this number is much lower. Oral microbes are responsible for common chronic diseases and are suggested to be sentinels of systemic human diseases. Microarrays are now being used to study oral microbiota in a systematic and robust manner. Although this technology is still relatively young, improvements have been made in all aspects of the technology, including advances that provide better discrimination between perfect-match hybridizations from non-specific (and closely-related) hybridizations. This review addresses a core technology using gel-based microarrays and the initial integration of this technology into a single device needed for system-wide studies of complex microbial community structure and for the development of oral diagnostic devices.