Three animal studies were performed to investigate the influence of the macromolecular structure of milk casein on caries incidence and the possible ecological changes of the oral microbiota by such casein fractions. Towards this end, rats were infected with mixed bacterial suspensions of Streptococcus sobrinus OMZ 176 and Actinomyces viscosus Ny1. Various milk protein fractions were incorporated into carefully balanced powdered cariogenic diets to constitute the sole major protein component. Diets containing micellar casein had a pronounced and highly significant effect on almost all clinical and microbiological parameters examined. Both the formation of advanced dentinal fissure (B) and smooth surface (E) caries lesions was inhibited by diets containing micellar casein; this caries–inhibiting effect appeared to be due mainly to modifications within the plaque microbiota. The proportion of S. sobrinus in the oral cavity of rats was reduced (73–80%) by micellar casein–containing preparations, whereas the A. viscosus population was increased. Both these microbiological parameters were always negatively correlated. This appears to be the first example of a food component other than dietary sugars, selectively modifying the composition of the dental plaque microbiota of rats in such a way as to reduce its pathogenic potential. It also demonstrates the importance of establishing a molecular basis for the role of food components, which prove to be beneficial to oral health.

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