The levels of salivary and serum IgA, IgG, and IgM antibodies to the seven serotypes (a-g) of Streptococcus mutans were established in 12 laboratory volunteers using a sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Salivary IgA antibody levels to the serotype c organism were significantly lower (P<0.005) than antibody levels to the other six serotypes of S. mutans. Similar results were found with a purified S. mutans serotype c carbohydrate. Serum IgG and IgM antibody titers to the serotype c whole cells were significantly higher (P<0.05) than to four other S. mutans serotypes (a, e-g). The abilities of S. mutans serotypes c and d to colonize molar tooth surfaces were examined in eight volunteers. S. mutans serotype d was cleared from the tooth surfaces within 24 hr of challenge, whereas S. mutans serotype c was detected in six of the eight volunteers after 2 weeks and in three of eight after 3 weeks. These results provide additional evidence for the role of salivary IgA antibodies in regulating S. mutans infection and suggest that the low levels of salivary IgA antibodies to S. mutans serotype c may contribute to the predominance of this serotype in the U.S. population. © 1985 Plenum Publishing Corporation.