Introduction

The latest data reports 10.7% of Australian adults (15+) have never experienced decay in permanent teeth. Source: NSAOH 2017-18.

Despite the best efforts of dental health professionals, oral infections are still widespread. Nearly 85% of U.S. adults between 20 and 64 have dental restorations, and 23.7% of that group have untreated dental caries.1 A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 47% of American adults have mild, moderate, or severe periodontitis.2

In Australia, the Australian Dental Association’s Oral Health Tracker shows that only 10.7% of Australian adults aged 15 years and over have never experienced decay in their permanent teeth, and 32.1%, or almost one third, have untreated dental caries.3 The same report shows that 28.8% of Australian adults have periodontal pockets greater than 4mm.4

REFERENCE: Australian Dental Association 2020. Australia’s Adult Oral Health Tracker 2020: Technical Paper, Mitchell Institute, Victoria University, Melbourne.

Figure 1. Gingivitis.
A photo of teeth and gums with gingivitis.

There is universal recognition these oral infections are multifactorial, with specific bacteria residing in intraoral plaques as a necessary, but not sufficient cause of disease. Exactly how these plaque-dwelling microorganisms (Figure 2) cause oral diseases is not completely clear. How dental plaque and its resident microorganisms are viewed is dictated by the analytical tools used to study it. Consequently, this influences the strategies used to control and prevent dental diseases.3 During the past two decades newer scientific methods have changed the view of dental plaque so dental scientists now see it as a biofilm.4

Figure 2. Plaque-dwelling microorganisms.
Oral microorganisms in dental plaque showing typical "corn-cob" structure of bacterium.
Oral microorganisms in dental plaque showing typical "corn-cob" structure of bacterium.