February JADA examines connection between healthy eating habits, untreated caries

Image of 2020 February JADA cover
Greater compliance with dietary guidelines may reduce the chance of untreated caries in adults, according to a study published in the February issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association.

The cover story, "The Healthy Eating Index and Coronal Dental Caries in U.S. Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011-2014," looked at the associations between untreated coronal caries, decayed, missing and filled teeth, and Healthy Eating Index scores of 7,751 adults age 20 and older who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey cycles 2011-12 and 2013-14.

The study found participants who ate the recommended amounts of fruits, greens, beans and added sugars –– as defined by the 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which set recommended intake levels of food groups and nutrients that are associated with common health outcomes –– were less likely to have untreated coronal caries than those who did not. Overall, decayed, missing and filled teeth also decreased as Healthy Eating Index scores increased, but those trends were not consistent among all racial and ethnic groups.

The researchers –– Elizabeth A. Kaye, Ph.D., professor in the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine's Department of Health Policy and Health Services Research, Dr. Woosung Sohn, Ph.D., chair of the University of Sydney School of Dentistry's Department of Population Oral Health, and Dr. Raul I. Garcia, chair of the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine's Department of Health Policy and Health Services Research –– controlled for age, gender, race/ethnicity, current cigarette use, family income-to-poverty threshold ratio, last dental visit and education, as well as whether participants were ever told they had a heart attack.

"Many people have trouble keeping track of how much added sugar they eat and understanding recommendations about sugar intake," Drs. Kaye, Sohn and Garcia said. "Our findings indicate that advising people to simply follow well-established dietary guidelines for all food groups in an overall balanced diet may be effective in reducing caries."

The authors advise dietary counseling for caries prevention by dental professionals should incorporate comprehensive dietary guidelines that are consistent with those intended for enhancing overall health and reducing the risk of common systemic diseases.

Other articles in the February issue of JADA discuss child dental neglect law specifications and repercussions, factors associated with masticatory performance in community-dwelling older adults and stainless steel crowns as a restoration for permanent posterior teeth in people with special needs.

Every month, JADA articles are published online at JADA.ADA.org in advance of the print publication.