The term biofilm is increasingly replacing 'plaque' in the literature, but concepts and existing paradigms are changing much more slowly. There is little doubt that biofilm research will lead to more realistic perception and interpretation of the physiology and pathogenicity of microorganisms colonizing plaques in the oral cavity. There is clear evidence that the genotypic and phenotypic expression profiles of biofilm and planktonic bacteria are different. Several techniques are available today to study multispecies biofilms of oral bacteria, each having its particular advantages and weaknesses. We describe a biofilm model developed in Zürich and demonstrate a number of applications with direct or indirect impact on prophylactic dentistry: spatial arrangement and associative behavior of various species in biofilms; multiplex fluorescent in situ hybridization analysis of oral bacteria in biofilms; use of the biofilm model to predict in vivo efficacy of antimicrobials reliably; mass transport in biofilms; de- and remineralization of enamel exposed to biofilms in vitro. The potential of biofilm experimentation in oral biology has certainly not yet been fully exploited and dozens of possible interesting applications could be investigated. The overall physiological parameters of multispecies biofilms can be measured quite accurately, but it is still impossible to assess in toto the multitude of interactions taking place in such complex systems. What can and should be done is to test hypotheses stemming from experiments with planktonic cells in monospecies cultures. In particular, it will be interesting to investigate the relevance to biofilm composition and metabolism of specific gene products by using appropriate bacterial mutants.