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News / March 18, 2009

Tooth decay

by Guy Hiscott

New research has found that modern lifestyle habits may play a bigger role than food alone, when it comes to tooth decay.

A review of the scientific evidence over the past 150 years found that the effects of fluoride toothpaste, good oral hygiene and health education may override the effects of food alone on tooth decay.

The research is published online in a supplement to the journal Obesity Reviews.

Professor Monty Duggal, an author of the review, explained: ‘Nowadays, it’s not enough to just look at what we eat when talking about tooth decay, as other factors seem to be as important. Fluoride toothpaste changes the effect that some foods have on the teeth, as do other good oral hygiene practices.’

He added: ‘Future research should investigate a number of lifestyle factors together with different foods that might affect tooth decay. Times have changed and, with that, the foods we eat and how we care for our teeth.’

The overall aim of the review was to look at the evidence for the claim that sugar was the main cause of dental caries.

The authors concluded that – out of 31 studies carefully reviewed – the majority did not find a relationship between the amount of sugar consumed and dental caries, but the frequency of consumption may be important.

Professor Duggal is a consultant and head of paediatric dentistry at Leeds Dental Institute. He has published more than 65 research papers in international scientific journals.