Dental caries form through a complex interaction over time among dental plaque, fermentable carbohydrate, and host factors (including teeth and saliva). As a key factor, dental plaque or biofilm substantially influence the characteristic of the carious lesions. Laboratory microbial culture models are often used because they provide a controllable and constant environment for cariology research. Moreover, they do not have ethical problems associated with clinical studies. The design of the microbial culture model varies from simple to sophisticated according to the purpose of the investigation. Each model is a compromise between the reality of the oral cavity and the simplification of the model. Researchers, however, can still obtain meaningful and useful results from the models they select. Laboratory microbial culture models can be categorized into a closed system and an open system. Models in the closed system have a finite supply of nutrients, and are also simple and cost-effective. Models in the open system enabled the supply of a fresh culture medium and the removal of metabolites and spent culture liquid simultaneously. They provide better regulation of the biofilm growth rate than the models in the closed system. This review paper gives an overview of the dental plaque biofilm and laboratory microbial culture models used for cariology research.
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