Date of Completion

Fall 12-9-2022

Thesis Advisor(s)

Patricia Rossi

Honors Major

Molecular and Cell Biology


The oral cavity contains a complex micro-ecosystem of flora inhabiting a variety of different niches. Some of these niches include saliva, shedding surfaces, and non-shedding surfaces. Biofilms in the oral microbiome, colloquially referred to as dental plaque, can accumulate on non-shedding surfaces, such as natural teeth and other artificial hard parts such as braces, dentures, fillings, and implants. These biofilms are made up of many mutualistic bacteria that stick to each other and adhere to hard surfaces. Scientists speculate that at least 700 different species of bacteria inhabit various parts of the mouth. These bacteria occupy different niches in varying amounts to help protect the teeth and body systems from invading pathogens. However, when plaque grows on non-shedding surfaces, the bacteria can over accumulate and cause inflammatory periodontal disease. Inflammatory periodontal disease includes both gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is an inflammatory disease caused by the overaccumulation of dental plaque in the supragingival area. When this plaque exists for extended periods of time without being removed, the biofilm can spread to the subgingival region of the gum and cause periodontitis. Periodontitis is characterized by tooth loss due to bone resorption and tissue damage. This review aims to discuss the community shifts in the oral microbiome that are associated with the onset of inflammatory periodontal disease, as well as the mechanisms in which these bacteria contribute to disease symptoms.