The Oral Host-Microbial Interactome: An Ecological Chronometer of Health? (2020)


The oral cavity is of major importance for human health and well-being. Not only does it provide entry to the digestive and respiratory systems, but it also provides immunity, and a protective barrier from invading pathogens (Box 1). Approximately 700 oral bacterial species have been identified to date, with evidence of 296 species-level taxa in a typical individual’s mouth [1]. These species are known collectively as the human oral microbiota. This microbiota colonizes five main, physically distinct niches: saliva, tongue, oral mucosa, mineralized tooth surfaces, and periodontal tissues – each niche harboring a distinct microbial community [2]. Some bacterial community members are considered pathobionts and cause diseases including dental caries (tooth decay) [3–5], periodontal diseases (gingival inflammation) [6,7], comprising gingivitis and periodontitis, and have been implicated in oral cancers [8]. Oral bacteria have also been linked to systemic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, preterm labor and Alzheimer’s disease [8–10]. However, molecular mechanisms supporting any direct role for the oral microbiota in systemic diseases have yet to be determined.

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