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Review
, 78 (4), 881S-892S

Sugars and Dental Caries

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Review

Sugars and Dental Caries

Riva Touger-Decker et al. Am J Clin Nutr.

Abstract

A dynamic relation exists between sugars and oral health. Diet affects the integrity of the teeth; quantity, pH, and composition of the saliva; and plaque pH. Sugars and other fermentable carbohydrates, after being hydrolyzed by salivary amylase, provide substrate for the actions of oral bacteria, which in turn lower plaque and salivary pH. The resultant action is the beginning of tooth demineralization. Consumed sugars are naturally occurring or are added. Many factors in addition to sugars affect the caries process, including the form of food or fluid, the duration of exposure, nutrient composition, sequence of eating, salivary flow, presence of buffers, and oral hygiene. Studies have confirmed the direct relation between intake of dietary sugars and dental caries across the life span. Since the introduction of fluoride, the incidence of caries worldwide has decreased, despite increases in sugars consumption. Other dietary factors (eg, the presence of buffers in dairy products; the use of sugarless chewing gum, particularly gum containing xylitol; and the consumption of sugars as part of meals rather than between meals) may reduce the risk of caries. The primary public health measures for reducing caries risk, from a nutrition perspective, are the consumption of a balanced diet and adherence to dietary guidelines and the dietary reference intakes; from a dental perspective, the primary public health measures are the use of topical fluorides and consumption of fluoridated water.

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