Update on the nomenclature of carbohydrates and their dental effects

J Dent. 1998 Mar;26(3):209-18. doi: 10.1016/s0300-5712(97)00010-9.


Objectives: This review aims to clarify the nomenclature of carbohydrates, including novel manufactured carbohydrates which are becoming increasingly popular within the food industry, and to summarise what is known about the effects of different carbohydrates on dental health.

Data sources: This review compiles information from articles published in mainstream microbiological, nutritional and dental journals that are of relevance to carbohydrates and dental health.

Study selection: The review considers literature on classification of carbohydrates by chain length, for example mono-di-oligo- and poly-saccharides and classification for dental health purposes, namely intrinsic, non-milk extrinsic sugars. This paper includes a comprehensive review of information on novel carbohydrates including isomaltosaccharides, fructo-oligosaccharides and gluco-oligosaccharides, maltodextrins and glucose syrups. Information on polyols and non-starch polysaccharides is also presented and current knowledge on the dental effects of all carbohydrates are discussed.

Conclusion: There is a wealth of information on dietary sugars and the effects of sugars on dental health is established knowledge. However, the range of 'novel' manufactured carbohydrates which are becoming available for food use is increasing and information regarding the cariogenicity of these substances is sparse. Research indicates that maltodextrins and glucose syrups are cariogenic, however, initial studies on some synthetic oligosaccharides have suggested reduced cariogenicity compared to sucrose. Further human plaque pH and in vitro and in vivo tests of cariogenicity are required to clarify these initial observations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carbohydrates / adverse effects
  • Carbohydrates / chemistry*
  • Carbohydrates / classification
  • Cariogenic Agents / adverse effects
  • Cariogenic Agents / chemistry
  • Cariogenic Agents / classification*
  • Dental Caries / etiology
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / adverse effects
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / classification*
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Humans
  • Starch / chemistry
  • Sugar Alcohols / adverse effects
  • Sugar Alcohols / chemistry
  • Sweetening Agents / adverse effects
  • Sweetening Agents / chemistry
  • Terminology as Topic*


  • Carbohydrates
  • Cariogenic Agents
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Sugar Alcohols
  • Sweetening Agents
  • Starch