BackgroundThe main objectives of this study were to describe and compare the microbiota of 1) deep dentinal lesions of deciduous teeth of children affected with severe early childhood caries (S-ECC) and 2) the unstimulated saliva of these children and 3) the unstimulated saliva of caries-free children, and to compare microbiota compositional differences and diversity of taxa in these sampled sites.MethodsChildren with S-ECC and without S-ECC were recruited. The saliva of all children with and without S-ECC was sampled along with the deep dentinal microbiota from children affected by S-ECC. The salivary microbiota of children affected by S-ECC (n=68) was compared to that of caries-free children (n=70), by Illumina MiSeq sequencing of 16S rRNA amplicons. Finally, the caries microbiota of deep dentinal lesions of those children with S-ECC was investigated.ResultsUsing two beta diversity metrics (Bray Curtis dissimilarity and UniFrac distance), the caries microbiota was found to be distinct from that of either of the saliva groups (caries-free & caries-active) when bacterial abundance was taken into account. However, when the comparison was made by measuring only presence and absence of bacterial taxa, all three microbiota types separated. While the alpha diversity of the caries microbiota was lowest, the diversity difference between the caries samples and saliva samples was statistically significant (p<0.001). The major phyla of the caries active dentinal microbiota were Firmicutes (median abundance value 33.5%) and Bacteroidetes (23.2%), with Neisseria (10.3%) being the most abundant genus, followed by Prevotella (10%). The caries-active salivary microbiota was dominated by Proteobacteria (median abundance value 38.2%) and Bacteroidetes (27.8%) with the most abundant genus being Neisseria (16.3%), followed by Porphyromonas (9.5%). Caries microbiota samples were characterized by high relative abundance of Streptococcus mutans, Prevotella spp., Bifidobacterium and Scardovia spp.ConclusionsDistinct differences between the caries microbiota and saliva microbiota were identified, with separation of both salivary groups (caries-active and caries-free) whereby rare taxa were highlighted. While the caries microbiota was less diverse than the salivary microbiota, the presence of these rare taxa could be the difference between health and disease in these children.