Ecological Hypothesis of Dentin and Root Caries

Nobuhiro Takahashi, Bente Nyvad

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

164 Citations (Scopus)


Recent advances regarding the caries process indicate that ecological phenomena induced by bacterial acid production tilt the de- and remineralization balance of the dental hard tissues towards demineralization through bacterial acid-induced adaptation and selection within the microbiota - from the dynamic stability stage to the aciduric stage via the acidogenic stage [Takahashi and Nyvad, 2008]. Dentin and root caries can also be partly explained by this hypothesis; however, the fact that these tissues contain a considerable amount of organic material suggests that protein degradation is involved in caries formation. In this review, we compiled relevant histological, biochemical, and microbiological information about dentin/root caries and refined the hypothesis by adding degradation of the organic matrix (the proteolytic stage) to the abovementioned stages. Bacterial acidification not only induces demineralization and exposure of the organic matrix in dentin/root surfaces but also activation of dentin-embedded and salivary matrix metalloproteinases and cathepsins. These phenomena initiate degradation of the demineralized organic matrix in dentin/root surfaces. While a bacterial involvement has never been confirmed in the initial degradation of organic material, the detection of proteolytic/amino acid-degrading bacteria and bacterial metabolites in dentin and root caries suggests a bacterial digestion and metabolism of partly degraded matrix. Moreover, bacterial metabolites might induce pulpitis as an inflammatory/immunomodulatory factor. Root and dentin surfaces are always at risk of becoming demineralized in the oral cavity, and exposed organic materials can be degraded by host-derived proteases contained in saliva and dentin itself. New approaches to the prevention and treatment of root/dentin caries are required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)422-431
Number of pages10
JournalCaries Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Sept 1


  • Bacteria
  • Cathepsin
  • Dental caries
  • Dentin
  • Ecological hypothesis
  • Matrix metalloproteinases
  • Proteolysis
  • Root caries


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