Sugar consumption and caries risk: a systematic review

J Dent Educ. 2001 Oct;65(10):1017-23.


This systematic review addresses the question: In the modern age of extensive fluoride exposure, do individuals with a high level of sugar intake experience greater caries severity relative to those with a lower level of intake? The MEDLINE and EMBASE databases were searched for English-language papers published between 1980 and 2000 using a search expression developed in conjunction with an experienced librarian. There were 809 papers located in the initial search. A review of titles and abstracts to identify clearly irrelevant papers reduced this number to 134. Two readers each read one half of these papers, and application of predetermined inclusion/exclusion criteria reduced this number of papers to sixty-nine. Criteria were established for scoring the quality of each of these papers on evidence tables. The maximum score for each paper was 100; the sixty-nine papers rated scored between 12 and 79. Final judgment of results was limited to those thirty-six papers that scored 55 or higher on the evidence tables and that reported studies carried out in countries where there is moderate-to-extensive fluoride exposure. Results showed that only two papers found a strong relationship between sugar consumption and caries development, sixteen found a moderate relationship, and eighteen found weak-to-no relationship. It was concluded that the relationship between sugar consumption and caries is much weaker in the modern age of fluoride exposure than it used to be. Controlling the consumption of sugar remains a justifiable part of caries prevention, however, if not always the most important aspect.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cariostatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dental Caries / etiology*
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control
  • Diet, Cariogenic*
  • Dietary Sucrose / adverse effects*
  • Fluorides / therapeutic use
  • Humans


  • Cariostatic Agents
  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Fluorides