What Are Viridans Streptococci?

The viridans group streptococci are a group of bacteria naturally occurring in the oral cavity and gastrointestinal tract of humans. While normally harmless, these organisms have the potential to cause illnesses in some populations, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

According to Reference.com, one member of the viridans group streptococci, classified as Streptococcus mutans, is the bacterial cause for dental caries in humans. Dental caries is a disease that results in tooth decay, cavities and tooth loss. These bacteria ferment carbohydrates left in the mouth to form lactic acid. The acid reduces the normal pH of the mouth, such that the minerals that make up the tooth begin to dissolve. While the body normally replaces the dissolved minerals, once the pH drops below 5.5, minerals dissolve at a rate faster than the body is able to replace them. Dental health organizations recommend individuals take steps to prevent damage through good oral hygiene, dietary changes and regular dental care.

According to Johns Hopkins Guides, streptococcal endocarditis occurs when bacterial resulting from abscesses on the teeth travel through the bloodstream to the heart. The disease has the potential to cause shock and death in vulnerable people, especially those with a compromised immune system, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Penicillin is the normal antibiotic used in treating individuals affected by streptococcal endocarditis.