Study Guide

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Sugars and dental caries

9 November 2017

Key facts

  • Dental caries (also known as tooth decay or dental cavities) is the most common noncommunicable disease worldwide.
  • Severe dental caries affects general health and often causes pain and infection, which may result in tooth extraction.
  • Dental caries is an expensive disease to treat, consuming 5–10% of healthcare budgets in industrialized countries, and is among the main reasons for hospitalization of children in some high-income countries.
  • Free sugars are the essential dietary factor in the development of dental caries. Dental caries develops when bacteria in the mouth metabolize sugars to produce acid that demineralizes the hard tissues of the teeth (enamel and dentine).
  • In many countries, sugars-sweetened beverages, including fruit-based and milk-based sweetened drinks and 100% fruit juices, are a primary source of free sugars, as well as confectionery, cakes, biscuits, sweetened cereals, sweet desserts, sucrose, honey, syrups and preserves.
  • Limiting free sugars intake to less than 10% of total energy intake – and ideally even further, to less than 5% – minimizes the risk of dental caries throughout the lifecourse.
  • Severe dental caries is a frequent cause of absenteeism at school or work. An association between dental caries and undernutrition in children has been reported in some low- and middle-income countries; however, whether this is cause or effect, or both, remains to be determined.

By Dr.Adiya Abdul Rehman

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