Dental Caries: Strategies to control this preventable disease

Andrew Rugg-Gunn


Objective. To provide a brief commentary review of strategies to control dental caries. Dental decay is one of man’s most prevalent diseases. In many counties, severity increased in parallel with importation of sugar, reaching its zenith about 1950s and 1960s. Since then, severity has declined in many countries, due to the wide use of fluoride especially in toothpaste, but dental caries remains a disease of medical, social and economic importance. Within the EU in 2011, the cost of dental treatment was estimated to be €79 billion. The pathogenesis is well understood: bacteria in dental plaque (biofilm) metabolise dietary sugars to acids which then dissolve dental enamel and dentine. Possible approaches to control caries development, therefore, involve: removal of plaque, reducing the acidogenic potential of plaque, reduction in sugar consumption, increasing the tooth’s resistance to acid attack, and coating the tooth surface to form a barrier between plaque and enamel. At the present time, only three approaches are of practical importance: sugar control, fluoride, and fissure sealing. The evidence that dietary sugars are the main cause of dental caries is extensive, and comes from six types of study. Without sugar, caries would be negligible. Fluoride acts in several ways to aid caries prevention. Ways of delivering fluoride can be classed as: ‘automatic’, ‘home care’ and ‘professional care’: the most important of these are discussed in detail in four articles in this issue of the Acta Medica Academica. Conclusion. Dental caries is preventable – individuals, communities and countries need strategies to achieve this.


Dental caries; Diet; Nutrition; Fluoride; Public health strategies

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