Everyone dreads a visit to the dentist’s, but even with diligent tooth-brushing, toothache and cavities are extremely common. The culprits are bacteria aggregating around our teeth in the dental plaque, and the acids they produce, which slowly dissolve the hard dental tissues. Bacterium Streptococcus mutans is thought to be the major acid-producing species responsible for tooth decay, but recent evidence suggests the blame might be shared with another microbe, the fungus Candida albicans. This partner in crime produces acid in its own right, but also helps S. mutans to stick to our teeth. In this electron micrograph colonies of the two microbes are seen growing on human teeth (left panel); zooming in reveals the bacteria, in blue, adhering to the larger fungus, coloured yellow, to colonise the tooth surface (right panel). A better understanding of how these microbes interact might help researchers find new ways to prevent tooth decay.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
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