Multispecies biofilms and host responses: “Discriminating the Trees from the Forest”

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Periodontal diseases reflect a tissue destructive process of the hard and soft tissues of the periodontium that are initiated by the accumulation of multispecies bacterial biofilms in the subgingival sulcus. This accumulation, in both quantity and quality of bacteria, results in a chronic immunoinflammatory response of the host to control this noxious challenge, leading to collateral damage of the tissues. As knowledge of the characteristics of the host-bacterial interactions in the oral cavity has expanded, new knowledge has become available on the complexity of the microbial challenge and the repertoire of host responses to this challenge. Recent results from the Human Microbiome Project continue to extend the array of taxa, genera, and species of bacteria that inhabit the multiple niches in the oral cavity; however, there is rather sparse information regarding variations in how host cells discriminate commensal from pathogenic species, as well as how the host response is affected by the three-dimensional architecture and interbacterial interactions that occur in the oral biofilms. This review provides some insights into these processes by including existing literature on the biology of nonoral bacterial biofilms, and the more recent literature just beginning to document how the oral cavity responds to multispecies biofilms.

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