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Mutans streptococci such as Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus have been implicated in human dental caries. In an attempt to develop a rapid and sensitive method for detecting Strep. mutans and Strep. sobrinus in dental plaque, a nested PCR amplification based on the 16S rRNA gene was employed.A universal set of PCR primers for bacterial 16S rRNA gene was introduced for the first PCR, and then two sets of primers specific for the 16S rRNA gene sequences of either Strep. mutans or Strep. sobrinus were used for the second PCR. Eighteen plaque samples were analyzed, and a nested PCR was shown to be more sensitive for detecting Strep. mutans and Strep. sobrinus than direct PCR.The 16S rRNA gene-based nested PCR method is a rapid and sensitive method for the detection of mutans streptococci, and may also be suitable for carrying out large-scale studies on the cariogenicity of mutans streptococci.