Rat dams, given intravenous injections of heat-killed Streptococcus mutans 6715, mutant C22 demonstrated significant agglutinin activity to the homologous S. mutans in colostrum, milk, and serum. This antibody activity was associated with the immunoglobulin G (IgG) class. High titers of anti-S. mutans antibody associated with the IgG class were also exhibited in the sera and saliva of the offspring that suckled these dams. After challenge with the homologous, live S. mutans, these offspring developed significantly fewer caries on all molar surfaces than did nonimmunized infected controls. A secretory immune response (manifested by the presence of specific IgA antibody to S. mutans in colostrum and milk) was elicited (i) in rat dams locally injected, in the region of the mammary gland, with heat-killed S. mutans antigen, and (ii) in other rat dams that were provided formalin-killed S. mutans in their drinking water. Offspring suckling these dams were challenged with virulent S. mutans before weaning and developed significantly fewer caries than did their infected controls. These findings clearly suggest that passively derived IgG or IgA antibodies to S. mutans are protective against dental caries.