Information: Dental Caries and Nutrition

Disease:  Dental Caries


  • ›Also known as tooth decay, dental caries are a disease caused by bacteria in the mouth
  • ›These bacteria metabolize ingested carbohydrates (sugars) and release acid waste through a process of fermentation
  • ›This acid production can lead to destruction of the surface and structure of teeth
  • Populations at risk:
    • Low-income children have 5x more untreated dental caries
    • Black and Hispanic adults have 38-40% more untreated decay
    • Low-Income Adults (< 100% FPL)
    • Smokers
  • Prevalence of Disease:

Picture1                                                                                  * indicates primary teeth

Behavior:  Nutrition


  • ›Sugar-Sweetened Beverages
    • ›Most contain high fructose corn syrup
    • Examples: ›non-diet soda, carbonated beverages, juices, sports drinks, and sweetened milks and teas
    • ›Studies have shown that carbonated sugar-sweetened beverages erode tooth surfaces
  • ›Micronutrient Deficiencies
    • ›Each nutrient has a specific job in the body
    • ›The behavior of consuming a nutrient-deficient diet can have many causes
    • ›Lack of accessibility to nutritious foods or habits of eating unhealthful food
    • ›Children with high amounts of dental caries have been shown to be more likely to have deficient levels of Vitamin D, calcium, and iron
  • Fluoride
    • Fluoridated water operates on tooth surfaces
    • In the mouth, the treated water creates low levels of fluoride in saliva, which reduces the rate at which tooth enamel demineralizes and increases the rate at which it remineralizes in the early stages of cavities
    • Water fluoridation prevents cavities in both children and adults
    • Report from the Surgeon General

Connection Between Dental Caries and Nutrition

  • A recent study concluded that sugar-sweetened beverages vary in quantity and nature of the sugars they contain; however, all of the sugars in these types of beverages are fermentable by oral bacteria and can potentially cause tooth decay
  • Further studies have shown that carbonated sugar-sweetened beverages erode tooth surfaces.
  • There is also strong evidence showing an increased risk for dental caries if frequent consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is combined with infrequent use of toothpaste, fluoride treatments, and/or fluoridated drinking water