Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering (MSME)

Document Type

Master's Thesis




Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Martha E. Grady


Poor oral hygiene is a severe global health issue, with about 44% of the Earth’s population suffering from untreated tooth decay, accounting for over $100 billion dollars spent on dental services per year in the United States, alone. Manual treatments, such as brushing, flossing, or swishing with antiseptic rinse are the main ways to alleviate harmful bacteria that cause these oral health problems. Streptococcus mutans (S. mutans) is a group of highly antibiotic, Gram-positive bacteria that heavily contribute to oral cavities, plaque build-up, and potential loosening or loss of dental implants if a biofilm develops. Currently, the mechanism for its antibiotic resistant properties is unknown, however, S. mutans cell wall is complex containing multiple peptidoglycan layers of surface glycoploymers, glycerol phosphates, and wall teichoic acids within the polysaccharide shell, providing targets to understanding its biosynthesis pathways. By way of the Conpokal technique, combined atomic force and confocal microscopy, this thesis work determines overall and regional cell wall surface roughness and elastic modulus of three strains of single form S. mutans. Examining a wildtype, a mutant type containing a glycerol phosphate modification, and a complemented genetic control, determining the constituents that contribute to its antibiotic resistance is studied through the link of its mechanical properties to the biological alteration. Greater understanding of S. mutans’ cell wall biosynthesis will aid in regulation of its properties and classification of its antibiotic resistant mechanism.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

Thank you to the University of Kentucky for the College of Engineering Dean's Tuition Scholarship (2018 - 2019) and to the Society of Women Engineers for the Lydia I. Pickup (2019 - 2020) and Ada I. Pressman (2020) Memorial Scholarships that helped support and fund my graduate degree. We gratefully acknowledge the Igniting Research Collaboration Program at the University of Kentucky (2018 - 2019), National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Research Excellence Phase III Pilot Funding (P30GM110788, 2018 - 2019), National Institutes of Health Center of Biomedical Research Excellence in Pharmaceutical Research and Innovation (P20GM130456, 2020), National Institutes of Health National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (R03DE029547, 2020), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (80NSSC20M0251, 2020) for the completion of these experiments.