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Sugary Drinks Give Adults Cavities, Too
May 28, 2014

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - Even one sugary drink per day could increase an adult's risk for tooth decay, says a Finnish study.

The study included 939 adults, ages 30 and older. They were all part of a national survey in Finland called Health 2000. Each adult was examined in 2000 and again in 2004. They answered questions about how many sugar-sweetened drinks, such as soda, they had each day. People also answered questions about their brushing and flossing habits.

People who drank 1 or 2 sugary beverages per day had 31% more decayed, missing or filled teeth than those who drank few or none. Those who drank 3 or more per day had a 33% increase in these tooth problems.

Certain groups reported having more sugar-sweetened drinks:

  • Men (versus women) – About 32% of men had 3 or more sugary drinks per day, compared with 14% of women.
  • Younger adults (versus older ones)
  • Adults who brushed their teeth once a day, or less (versus those brushing two or more times a day)
  • Adults with less education (versus those with more)

When the study started, people had an average of 22 decayed, missing or filled teeth (not counting wisdom teeth). The average four-year increase in the number of these tooth problems was 0.76. More than half of the people in the study (57%) had no additional tooth problems during the four years of the study.

This is the first study to look at the effects of adults' sugar-sweetened drink consumption on tooth decay. Past studies have focused on children or teens.

The effects of sugary drinks were not lessened in people who used fluoride toothpaste, compared with those who did not. However, the researchers noted that almost everyone in the study used fluoride toothpaste, so they could not conclude that it was not helpful in preventing decay. The authors noted a few limitations of their study:

  • People reported how many sugary drinks they had. They may not have always remembered correctly or been truthful.
  • The researchers measured how often people had sugary drinks, but not how much they drank.
  • The four-year period of the study may not have been long enough to truly show the effects of sugary drinks. Tooth decay can take longer than four years to develop.

The study appears in the May issue of the Journal of Dentistry.

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