Objective The aim of this study was to investigate whether Quantitative Light-induced Fluorescence-Digital (QLF-D) could monitor the degree of maturation of dental microcosm biofilms by observing the red fluorescence emitted from the biofilms. Methods Dental microcosm the biofilms were grown on bovine enamel discs. They were initiated from human saliva, and then grown in 0.5% sucrose growth media for 10 days. On days 1, 2, 3, 7, and 10 after the inoculation, fluorescence images of the biofilms were captured using the QLF-D and the red fluorescence intensity was quantified by calculating the red/green ratio (R/G value). Total and aciduric bacteria within the biofilms were counted, and the degree of demineralization was evaluated by measuring the percentage of surface microhardness change (ΔVHN) and lesion depth in the enamel. Results The R/G values of the biofilms assessed by the QLF-D increased significantly over time up to 7 days after inoculation (p < 0.0001). The R/G values showed significant positive correlations with the total bacterial CFUs (r = 0.74, p = 0.001), aciduric bacterial CFUs (r = 0.85, p = 0.001), ΔVHN (r = 0.65, p = 0.001), and lesion depth in the enamel (r = 0.82, p = 0.001) according to the maturation time. Conclusions The red fluorescence detected by the QLF-D increased according to biofilm maturation and was significantly associated with the cariogenicity of the biofilm. Therefore, this device could be used to monitor the degree of biofilm maturation by observing the red fluorescence emitted from cariogenic biofilms. Clinical significance The QLF-D enables the detection of a mature dental plaque and monitoring of its cariogenic status by observing the plaque fluorescence non-destructively, in real time.
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