Combined use of Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy (CLSM) and Fluorescent in situ Hybridization (FISH) offers new opportunities for analysing the spatial relationships and temporal changes of specific members of microbial populations in intact dental biofilms. AIMS: The purpose of this study was to analyse the patterns of colonization and population dynamics of A. naeslundii compared to Streptococcus spp. and other bacteria during the initial 48 h of biofilm formation. METHODS: Biofilms were collected on standardized glass slabs mounted in intra-oral appliances and worn by 10 individuals for 6, 12, 24, and 48 h. The biofilms were subsequently labelled with probes against Streptococcus spp. (STR405), A. naeslundii (ACT476), or all bacteria (EUB338) and analysed by CLSM. Quantification of labelled bacteria was done by stereological tools: the unbiased counting frame and the 2D fractionator. RESULTS: This study confirmed previous work that streptococci are the predominant colonizers of early dental biofilm along with A. naeslundii. There was a notable increase in the total number of bacteria, Streptococcus spp., and A. naeslundii over time with a tendency towards a slower growth rate for A. naeslundii compared with Streptococcus spp. The initial pattern of colonization was dominated by adsorption of single A. naeslundii as well as isolated clusters of A. naeslundii or A. naeslundii in small multi-species aggregates. Analysis of the spatio-temporal organization of A. naeslundii in multi-layer dental biofilms up to 48 h definitively demonstrated that A. naeslundii preferentially occupied the inner layers. Some A. naeslundii microcolonies extended perpendicularly from the supporting surface surrounded by other bacteria forming chimneys of complex multilayered micro-colonies. CONCLUSIONS: This study has for the first time elucidated some quantitative and qualitative aspects of dental biofilm formation in situ up to 48h using a species-specific oligonucleotide probe against A. naeslundii. The participation of A. naeslundii in the initial stages of dental biofilm formation and its preferential colonization in the inner part of the biofilm may have important ecological consequences. This study was supported by Aarhus University Research Foundation, The Swedish Patent Revenue Fund for Research in Preventive Odontology, and The Danish Dental Association.