Supplementary Material for: A Tissue-Dependent Hypothesis of Dental Caries

Current understanding of dental caries considers this disease a demineralization of the tooth tissues due to the acid produced by sugar-fermenting microorganisms. Thus, caries is considered a diet- and pH-dependent process. We present here the first metagenomic analysis of the bacterial communities present at different stages of caries development, with the aim of determining whether the bacterial composition and biochemical profile are specific to the tissue affected. The data show that microbial composition at the initial, enamel-affecting stage of caries is significantly different from that found at subsequent stages, as well as from dental plaque of sound tooth surfaces. Although the relative proportion of <i>Streptococcus mutans</i> increased from 0.12% in dental plaque to 0.72% in enamel caries, <i>Streptococcus mitis</i> and <i>Streptococcus sanguinis</i> were the dominant streptococci in these lesions. The functional profile of caries-associated bacterial communities indicates that genes involved in acid stress tolerance and dietary sugar fermentation are overrepresented only at the initial stage (enamel caries), whereas other genes coding for osmotic stress tolerance as well as collagenases and other proteases enabling dentin degradation are significantly overrepresented in dentin cavities. The results support a scenario in which pH and diet are determinants of the disease during the degradation of enamel, but in dentin caries lesions not only acidogenic but also proteolytic bacteria are involved. We propose that caries disease is a process of varying etiology, in which acid-producing bacteria are the vehicle to penetrate enamel and allow dentin degrading microorganisms to expand the cavity.