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Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 Mar;49(3):417-26.

Nutritional status, tooth eruption, and dental caries: a review.

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  • 1Department of Public Health, University of Alabama, Birmingham 35294.


Animal studies have shown that early malnutrition affects tooth structure, delays tooth eruption, and results in increased dental caries. However, epidemiologic evidence in support of these findings has been elusive. Cross-sectional surveys show that populations with a higher prevalence of caries in their deciduous teeth also show a lower prevalence of caries in their permanent teeth. However, longitudinal data from individuals show exactly the opposite. Caries development is also delayed as a consequence of a delayed tooth eruption and thus the bell-shaped curve that results from plotting deciduous caries prevalence vs age is shifted to the right in malnourished children. This effect will result in an apparently negative association between caries in deciduous and permanent teeth when cross-sectional surveys are compared. Once the effect on tooth eruption is taken into account, the contribution of malnutrition to increased caries susceptibility may be observed, as demonstrated by a recent cross-sectional study involving Peruvian children.

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