Dietary effects on dental diseases

Public Health Nutr. 2001 Apr;4(2B):569-91. doi: 10.1079/phn2001142.


Dental caries is a highly prevalent chronic disease and its consequences cause a lot of pain and suffering. Sugars, particularly sucrose, are the most important dietary aetiological cause of caries. Both the frequency of consumption and total amount of sugars is important in the aetiology of caries. The evidence establishing sugars as an aetiological factor in dental caries is overwhelming. The foundation of this lies in the multiplicity of studies rather than the power of any one. That statement by the British Nutrition Foundation's Task Force on Oral Health, Diet and Other Factors, sums up the relationship between sugars and caries in Europe. There is no evidence that sugars naturally incorporated in the cellular structure of foods (intrinsic sugars) or lactose in milk or milk products (milk sugars) have adverse effects on health. Foods rich in starch, without the addition of sugars, play a small role in coronal dental caries. The intake of extrinsic sugars beyond four times a day leads to an increase risk of dental caries. The current dose-response relationship between caries and extrinsic sugars suggests that the sugars levels above 60 g/person/day for teenagers and adults increases the rate of caries. For pre-school and young children the intakes should be proportional to those for teenagers; about 30 g/person/day for pre-school children. Fluoride, particularly in toothpastes, is a very important preventive agent against dental caries. Toothbrushing without fluorides has little effect on caries. As additional fluoride to that currently available in toothpaste does not appear to be benefiting the teeth of the majority of people, the main strategy to further reduce the levels of caries, is reducing the frequency of sugars intakes in the diet. Dental erosion rates are considered to be increasing. The aetiology is acids in foods and drinks and to a much lesser extent from regurgitation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acids / administration & dosage
  • Acids / adverse effects
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Dental Caries / epidemiology
  • Dental Caries / etiology*
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Sucrose / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Sucrose / adverse effects
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Fluorides / administration & dosage*
  • Fluorides / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Tooth Erosion


  • Acids
  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Fluorides