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Br J Nutr. 1997 Apr;77 Suppl 1:S121-8.

Sugar, alternative sweeteners and meal frequency in relation to caries prevention: new perspectives.

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Department of Oral Health, Faculty of Dental Medicine, University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


In the last 20 years, mainly due to optimum fluoride exposure, and practice of good oral hygiene procedures, an important reduction in caries has been observed, despite the fact that sugar consumption was maintained and/or was increasing during the same lapse of time. A sugar-caries relationship cannot be established in most of the industrialized countries and the dietary factor is not as preponderant in the caries process as it used to be two decades ago. The factors which seem to contribute the most significantly to the cariogenicity of the diet are the frequency of carbohydrate ingestion and eating patterns. The relative cariogenicity of food is not correlated with the amount of carbohydrate it contains. Even if sucrose remains the most important sugar consumed in sweets, beverages and confectionery products, all fermentable-carbohydrate foods can be involved in the caries process. The use of chewing gum and other xylitol-containing products have resulted in defined reduction in caries and represent interesting alternatives for high-caries-risk populations. Caries risk and oral health assessments as well as the evaluation of oral hygiene procedures and fluoride exposure should become essential tools in dietary counselling. People who receive optimum fluoride exposure and follow regular oral hygiene measures can safely use dietary carbohydrates, preferably during meals and two to three times daily in snacks or drinks.

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