Current Oral Health Reports

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 264–269 | Cite as

Evolution of the Oral Microbiome and Dental Caries

  • Christina J AdlerEmail author
  • Gina V Browne
  • Smitha Sukumar
  • Toby Hughes
Microbiology (M Klein, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Microbiology


Purpose of Review

Our paper reviews how dietary changes during human evolution have contributed to the increased incidence and prevalence of dental caries in modern populations by shifting the oral microbiome from a “healthy” to “carious” state. We addressed two questions: (1) what is the microbial difference between the states of health and caries, and (2) how has the development of an agricultural diet impacted the oral microbiome?

Recent Findings

The application of next-generation sequencing has revealed the complexity of the oral microbiome and lack of a simple compositional difference between health and caries. Genetic analysis of the oral microbiome from contemporary and ancient humans has shown that the introduction of agriculture was associated with increased frequency of caries-related bacteria and the evolution of the key carious pathogen, Streptococcus mutans.


The adoption of an agricultural diet has contributed to a modern rise in caries by changing the oral microbiome ecology. Identification of evolutionary factors that have influenced the oral microbiome in health and caries, and how the two states differ functionally, as opposed to compositionally, may help to reduce the current burden of caries.


Oral microbiome Dental caries Evolution Diet Agriculture Hunter-gatherer 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina J Adler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gina V Browne
    • 1
    • 2
  • Smitha Sukumar
    • 1
  • Toby Hughes
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Dental Research, The Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research, Faculty of DentistryThe University of SydneyWestmeadAustralia
  2. 2.Westmead Centre for Oral HealthWestmeadAustralia
  3. 3.School of DentistryThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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