Maternal Oral Health Influences Infant Salivary Microbiome

K. Ramadugu, D. Bhaumik, T. Luo, R. E. Gicquelais, K. H. Lee, E. B. Stafford, C. F. Marrs, K. Neiswanger, D. W. McNeil, M. L. Marazita, B. Foxman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Oral microbiomes vary in cariogenic potential; these differences may be established early in life. A major concern is whether mothers transmit cariogenic bacteria to their children. Here we characterize early salivary microbiome development and the potential associations of that development with route of delivery, breastfeeding, and mother’s oral health, and we evaluate transmission of microbes between mother and child. We analyzed saliva and metadata from the Center for Oral Health Research in Appalachia. For this cohort study, we sequenced the V6 region of the 16S rRNA gene and used quantitative polymerase chain reaction to detect Streptococcus mitis, Streptococcus sobrinus, Streptococcus mutans, Streptococcus oralis, and Candida albicans in the saliva from mothers and their infants, collected at 2, 9, and 12 mo (Pennsylvania site) and 2, 12, and 24 mo (West Virginia site). Breastfed children had lower relative abundances of Prevotella and Veillonella. If mothers had decayed, missing, or filled teeth, children had greater abundances of Veillonella and Actinomyces. There was little evidence of maternal transmission of selected microbes. At 12 mo, children’s microbiomes were more similar to other children’s than to their mothers’. Infants’ salivary microbiomes became more adult-like with age but still differed with mothers’ microbiomes at 12 mo. There was little evidence supporting transmission of selected microbes from mothers to children, but risk of colonization was associated with tooth emergence. Children are likely to acquire cariogenic bacteria from a variety of sources, including foods and contact with other children and adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-65
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Dental Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • 16S rRNA
  • caries
  • early childhood caries
  • epidemiology
  • gingivitis
  • oral microbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry


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