Dental plaque microcosms were established under a feast-famine regimen within constant-depth film fermentors and exposed four times daily postfeeding to a triclosan (TR)-containing rinse (dentifrice) (TRD). This was diluted so that the antimicrobial content was 0.6 mg/ml. Microcosms were characterized by heterotrophic plate counts and PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) with primers specific for the V2-V3 region of the eubacterial 16S rRNA gene (rDNA). Dominant isolates and PCR amplicons were identified by partial sequencing of 16S rDNA. TRD caused considerable decreases in the counts of both gram-negative organisms and total anaerobic cells, transiently lowered the numbers of streptococci and actinomycetes, and markedly increased the proportion of lactobacilli. DGGE indicated the presence of putatively unculturable bacteria and showed that a Porphyromonas sp. and Selenomonas infelix had been inhibited by TRD. Pure culture studies of 10 oral bacteria (eight genera) showed that Neisseria subflava, Prevotella nigrescens, and Porphyromonas gingivalis were highly susceptible to TR, while the lactobacilli and streptococci were the least susceptible. Clonal expansion of the lactobacilli in the pulsed microcosm could be explained on the basis of TR activity. The mean MICs of TR, chlorhexidine, erythromycin, penicillin V, and vancomycin for the population before and after 5 days of exposure to TRD showed few significant changes. In conclusion, changes in plaque microcosm populations following repeated exposure to TRD showed inhibition of the most susceptible flora and clonal expansion of less susceptible species.