BACKGROUND: Early childhood caries (ECC) is a common disease process that afflicts a large proportion of the child population worldwide. Extensive research in past indicates that it is the result of bacterial infection, also influenced by host and dietary factors. Current caries research seeks to identify risk factors as well as natural oral defenses that may protect against or prevent caries development. Saliva, in spite of being the strongest defense system, still has a wide array of properties and proteins whose role is yet not clearly known.
AIM: To compare the resting human whole salivary characteristics in children with ECC and those who are caries free.
SETTINGS AND DESIGN: The study was conducted over a period of 9 months in 4- to 6-year-old 100 children comprising two groups - 50 with ECC and 50 caries free.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: The whole salivary flow rate, pH, mean protein concentration, and the electrophoretic profile of salivary proteins by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) were compared among both groups.
STATISTICAL ANALYSIS: The SPSS (version 11.0) software package was used to conduct the chi-square, Fisher's exact and Pearson's chi-square tests to compare the data.
RESULTS: On gel electrophoresis, there was a significant difference among both groups with caries-free subjects having a higher number of proline-rich protein bands, substantiating the protective role of this protein. A significantly higher number of glycoprotein bands were observed in the whole saliva of subjects with ECC. A significant inverse correlation between the mean protein concentration and the whole salivary flow rate was observed in both groups.