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The oral microbiome: Role of key organisms and complex networks in oral health and disease

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States of oral health and disease reflect the compositional and functional capacities of, as well as the interspecies interactions within, the oral microbiota. The oral cavity exists as a highly dynamic microbial environment that harbors many distinct substrata and microenvironments that house diverse microbial communities. Specific to the oral cavity, the nonshedding dental surfaces facilitate the development of highly complex polymicrobial biofilm communities, characterized not only by the distinct microbes comprising them, but cumulatively by their activities. Adding to this complexity, the oral cavity faces near-constant environmental challenges, including those from host diet, salivary flow, masticatory forces, and introduction of exogenous microbes. The composition of the oral microbiome is shaped throughout life by factors including host genetics, maternal transmission, as well as environmental factors, such as dietary habits, oral hygiene practice, medications, and systemic factors. This dynamic ecosystem presents opportunities for oral microbial dysbiosis and the development of dental and periodontal diseases. The application of both in vitro and culture-independent approaches has broadened the mechanistic understandings of complex polymicrobial communities within the oral cavity, as well as the environmental, local, and systemic underpinnings that influence the dynamics of the oral microbiome. Here, we review the present knowledge and current understanding of microbial communities within the oral cavity and the influences and challenges upon this system that encourage homeostasis or provoke microbiome perturbation, and thus contribute to states of oral health or disease.

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