The importance of sugars as a cause of caries is underemphasized and not prominent in preventive strategies. This is despite overwhelming evidence of its unique role in causing a worldwide caries epidemic. Why this neglect? One reason is that researchers mistakenly consider caries to be a multifactorial disease; they also concentrate mainly on mitigating factors, particularly fluoride. However, this is to misunderstand that the only cause of caries is dietary sugars. These provide a substrate for cariogenic oral bacteria to flourish and to generate enamel-demineralizing acids. Modifying factors such as fluoride and dental hygiene would not be needed if we tackled the single cause--sugars. In this article, we demonstrate the sensitivity of cariogenesis to even very low sugars intakes. Quantitative analyses show a log-linear dose-response relationship between the sucrose or its monosaccharide intakes and the progressive lifelong development of caries. This results in a substantial dental health burden throughout life. Processed starches have cariogenic potential when accompanying sucrose, but human studies do not provide unequivocal data of their cariogenicity. The long-standing failure to identify the need for drastic national reductions in sugars intakes reflects scientific confusion partly induced by pressure from major industrial sugar interests.
Keywords: cariogenic; dose-response; epidemiology; guidelines; multifactorial; review.
© International & American Associations for Dental Research 2015.