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News / December 12, 2013

Slash stealth sugar intake, dental patients urged

by Guy Hiscott

Halving patients’ daily sugar intake could diminish the risk of tooth decay Irish dentists have to face, a study has found.

Scientists have suggested that restricting the recommended threshold for ‘free sugars’ to around five teaspoons a day could minimise the risk of dental cavities.

Free sugars are those added to foods by manufacturers, cooks or consumers; plus those naturally abiding in honey, syrup, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.

Levels of tooth decay are much lower in diets where less than 10% of the calorie intake comes from free sugars, according to research carried out for the World Health Organisation (WHO) by Newcastle in the UK.

The study also found that fluoride does not eliminate tooth decay, citing dietary sugars as the primary cause. People living in areas with fluoridated water and/or using fluoride toothpaste still got dental caries.

The Newcastle University study considered the overall quality of evidence by examining consistency of results across the available studies, the size of effect, evidence of a dose response and the strength of association.

Professor Paula Moynihan, professor of nutrition and oral health at Newcastle University, said: ‘In the past, judgements on recommended levels of free sugars intake were made based on levels associated with an average of three or fewer decayed teeth in 12 year olds.

‘Part of the problem is that sugary foods and drinks are now staples in many people’s diet in industrialised countries, whereas once they were an occasional treat for a birthday or Christmas.

‘The public need better information on the health risks of sugary foods and drinks and there needs to be clearer information on the levels of sugars in our foods and drinks.’

Researchers examined 55 oral health studies dating back to the 1950s. The study was published in the Journal of Dental Research.