Objective and method: To compare the bedtime consumption of sugar-sweetened food and drinks by children with their caries experience. The subjects were 600 children aged 2 to 16 years from two communities in northern England with high overall caries levels, who attended two general dental practices as new patients. The children were predominantly from non-working families and 29% were from ethnic minorities.
Results: A positive significant relationship was found between the consumption of either food or drinks containing non-milk extrinsic sugar (NMES) in the hour before bed and both dmft and DMFT in the sample as a whole. The subjects consuming NMES food had a mean dmft of 1.91 and a DMFT of 1.18 compared to 1.13 and 0.42 for subjects who did not. The corresponding mean scores for NMES drinks were 1.76 and 0.94 compared to 1.04 and 0.46. Gender, ethnicity and social-economic status were not significantly related to caries experience. The strongest relationship found was between caries experience and the consumption of both NMES food and drinks before bed, those children having four times the mean DMFT score (1.24) of those who consumed neither (0.31).
Conclusion: The findings support the introduction of the concept of a sugar-free zone for the hour before bed.