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Faculty Information

Page W Caufield, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Cariology and Comprehensive Care
Room 1011S Dental Center, 421 First Avenue



1969 B.S., Zoology Ohio State University
1973 D.D.S., Case Western Reserve University
1973 - 77 Harvard University, Harvard Schools of Medicine, School of Dental Medicine and Forsyth Dental Center, Post-Doc Microbiology, Specialty in Pediatric Dentistry
1986 - 87 Post-Doc. Molecular Genetics, University of Michigan
1985 - 90 Ph.D., Cellular and Molecular Biology, Microbiology, University of Alabama


Research Interests / Professional Overview:

The research thrust of our laboratory involves four areas of interest. The first area concerns the delineation of the natural history of oral bacteria responsible for dental caries, including genetic and environmental events that influence the acquisition and transmission of bacteria indigenous to humans. More specifically, our present focus is in three areas: 1) windows of infectivity for acquisition of indigenous bacteria, 2) fidelity of genotypic transmission and 3) clonality of caries-associated strains of Streptococcus mutans. We are looking at what biological rules govern the opening and closing of this window in infants; infants who do not become infected with S. mutans during this window may remain free of these organisms and do not manifest disease, i.e., caries. The recent development of a DNA fingerprinting techniques allows us to study transmission /acquisition as well as describe polymorphic behavior inherent to indigenous bacteria that are vertically transmitted. The conservation of S. mutans within both racial and familial lines suggests a pattern of co-evolution between host and parasite. Because S. mutans is transmitted vertically, i.e., mother to child, clonal types are confined within racial and familial cohorts. If clonality proves to be true for all strains of S. mutans, then virulence factors can be traced based on commonality of certain clones among children with severe caries. It follows that diagnostic tools can then be developed capable of predicting risk before the initiation of caries.

Our second major interest is developing techniques for characterizing diversity of bacteria within plaque biofilms associated with dental caries. To do this, we have developed two systems of DNA profiling – one using gradient gels (DGGE) to separate distinct 16S rDNA moieties representing individual species of bacteria from biofilm and the second subtraction DNA hybridization of genetic fragments. Both approaches are culture-independent, hence we should be able to expand our knowledge of the cariogenic biota to include the non-cultivable, and majority portion of the dental biofilm. These studies give us clues as to why some strains are more virulent than others.

 Our third  and most recently funded area of research involves the genetic  characterization of cariogenic members of  the genus Lactobacllus, long associated with dental caries and likely the major driver of lesion formation once it gains prominence in the oral cavity.  We aim to show that that unlike S. mutans, the lactobacilli are secondary invaders and not members of the maternally-inherited indigenous biota, and therefore, are opportunistic invaders from sources presently unknown, but likely from dietary sources.  Our collaborators include scientists from the American Museum of Natural History and University College Cork in Ireland.

Our fourth area of research is in the population structure of Streptococcus mutans and its co-evolution with its human host. Comparing phylogenies of different strains with and without plasmids reveal separate evolutionary pathways between plasmid and chromosomal frames. As humans migrated out of Africa, they carried their intraoral commensal biota, including S. mutans. These migrations parallel S. mutans phylogeny.


Current Funding:

 Microbial Diversity and Genetic Characterization of Cariogenic Biofilms - RO1, NIDCR

  Diversity of Lactobacilli associated with severe caries in children- RO1, NIDCR


Pub Med Articles:

Caufield PW


Representative Publications:


Caufield, PW, Li, Y and Bromage, TM.  2012. Hypoplasia-associated severe Early Childhood Caries - A proposed definition  J. Dent. Res. 91:544-50.

Argimon S, Caufield P.W. 2011. The distribution of putative virulence genes in Streptococcus mutans strains does not correlate with caries experience. J Clin Microbiol. 49:984-92.

Caufield, PW. 2009. Tracking human migration patterns through the oral bacterial flora. Clin Microbiol Infect. 15 Suppl 1:37-39.

Beauchamp, J., P. W. Caufield, J. J. Crall, K. Donly, R. Feigal, B. Gooch, A. Ismail, W. Kohn, M. Siegal, and R. Simonsen. 2008. Evidence-Based Clinical Recommendations for the Use of Pit-and-Fissure Sealants: A Report of the American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs. J Am Dent Assoc 139:257-68.

Oong, E. M., S. O. Griffin, W. G. Kohn, B. F. Gooch, and P. W. Caufield. 2008. The effect of dental sealants on bacteria levels in caries lesions: a review of the evidence. J Am Dent Assoc 139:271-8.

Yang R., Argimon S., Li Y., Zhou X., Caufield P.W. 2010. Determining the genetic diversity of lactobacilli from the oral cavity. J Microbiol. Methods 82(2):163-9.

Caufield PW, Saxena D, Fitch D, Li Y. 2007, Population structure of plasmid-containing strains of Streptococcus mutans, a member of the human indigenous biota. J Bacteriol. 189(4):1238-43.

Caufield PW, Li Y, Dasanayake A, Saxena D. 2007. Diversity of lactobacilli in the oral cavities of young women with dental caries. Caries Res.;41(1):2-8.

Li Y, Ge Y, Saxena D, Caufield PW. 2007. Genetic profiling of the oral microbiota associated with severe early-childhood caries. J Clin Microbiol. 45(1):81-7

Li, Y, Caufield, PW, Dasanayake, AP, Wiener, HW and Vermund, S. 2005.  Mode of delivery and other maternal factors influence the acquisition of Streptococcus mutans in infants.  J Dent. Res. 84:806-811.

Caufield, P W. 2005.  Dental caries: an infectious and transmissible disease: where have we been and where are we going?  NY State Dent J. 71:23-27.

Caufield, PW, Li Y, Dasanayake AP. 2005.  Dental caries: an infectious and transmissible disease.  Compendium, 26:10-16 (supplement).

Pan, Y. P., Y. Li, and P. W. Caufield. 2001. Phenotypic and genotypic diversity of Streptococcus sanguis in infants.  Oral Microbiol Immunol 16:235-42.

Zhou, X., P. W. Caufield, Y. Li, and F. Qi. 2001.  Complete nucleotide sequence and characterization of pUA140, a cryptic plasmid from Streptococcus mutans.  Plasmid.  46:77-85.

Caufield, P. W., and A. L. Griffen. 2000. Dental caries. An infectious and transmissible disease. Pediatr Clin North Am 47:1001-19, v.

Caufield, P. W., A. P. Dasanayake, Y. Li, Y. Pan, J. Hsu, and J. M. Hardin. 2000. Natural history of Streptococcus sanguinis in the oral cavity of infants: evidence for a discrete window of infectivity. Infect Immun 68:4018-23.

Krull, R. E., P. Chen, J. Novak, M. Kirk, S. Barnes, J. Baker, N. R. Krishna, and P. W. Caufield. 2000. Biochemical structural analysis of the lantibiotic mutacin II. J Biol Chem 275:15845-50.

Li, Y., W. Wang, and P. W. Caufield. 2000. The fidelity of mutans streptococci transmission and caries status correlate with breast-feeding experience among Chinese families. Caries Res 34:123-32.

Qi, F., P. Chen, and P. W. Caufield. 2000. Purification and biochemical characterization of mutacin I from the group I strain of Streptococcus mutans, CH43, and genetic analysis of mutacin I biosynthesis genes. Appl Environ Microbiol 66:3221-9.

Caufield, P. W., G. R. Cutter, and A. P. Dasanayake. 1993. Initial acquisition of mutans streptococci by infants: evidence for a discrete window of infectivity. J Dent Res 72:37-45.