Objective. Dental caries is a common, chronic disease of childhood. The impact of contemporary changes in beverage patterns, specifically decreased milk intakes and increased 100% juice and soda pop intakes, on dental caries in young children is unknown. We describe associations among caries experience and intakes of dairy foods, sugared beverages, and nutrients and overall diet quality in young children.
Methods. Subjects (n = 642) are members of the Iowa Fluoride Study, a cohort followed from birth. Food and nutrient intakes were obtained from 3-day diet records analyzed at 1 (n = 636), 2 (n = 525), 3 (n = 441), 4 (n = 410), and 5 (n = 417) years and cumulatively for 1 through 5 (n = 396) years of age. Diet quality was defined by nutrient adequacy ratios (NARs) and calculated as the ratio of nutrient intake to Recommended Dietary Allowance/Adequate Intake. Caries were identified during dental examinations by 2 trained and calibrated dentists at 4 to 7 years of age. Examinations were visual, but a dental explorer was used to confirm questionable findings. Caries experience was assessed at both the tooth and the surface levels. Data were analyzed using SAS. The Wilcoxon rank sum test was used to compare food intakes, nutrient intakes, and NARs of subjects with and without caries experience. Logistic and Tobit regression analyses were used to identify associations among diet variables and caries experience and to develop models to predict caries experience. Not all relationships between food intakes and NARs and caries experience were linear; therefore, categorical variables were used to develop models to predict caries experience. Food and beverage intakes were categorized as none, low, and high intakes, and NARs were categorized as inadequate, low adequate, and high adequate.
Results. Subjects with caries had lower median intakes of milk at 2 and 3 years of age than subjects without caries. Subjects with caries had higher median intakes of regular (sugared) soda pop at 2, 3, 4, and 5 years and for 1 through 5 years; regular beverages from powder at 1, 4, and 5 years and for 1 through 5 years; and total sugared beverages at 4 and 5 years than subjects without caries. Logistic regression models were developed for exposure variables at 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 years and for 1 through 5 years to predict any caries experience at 4 to 7 years of age. Age at dental examination was retained in models at all ages. Children with 0 intake (vs low and high intakes) of regular beverages from powder at 1 year, regular soda pop at 2 and 3 years, and sugar-free beverages from powder at 5 years had a decreased risk of caries experience. High intakes of regular beverages from powder at 4 and 5 years and for 1 through 5 years and regular soda pop at 5 years and for 1 through 5 years were associated with significantly increased odds of caries experience relative to subjects with none or low intakes. Low (vs none or high) intakes of 100% juice at 5 years were associated with decreased caries experience. In general, inadequate intakes (vs low adequate or high adequate intakes) of nutrients (eg, riboflavin, copper, vitamin D, vitamin B12) were associated with increased caries experience and low adequate intakes (vs inadequate or high adequate intakes) of nutrients (eg, vitamin B12, vitamin C) were associated with decreased caries experience. An exception was vitamin E; either low or high adequate intakes were associated with increased caries experience at various ages. Multivariable Tobit regression models were developed for 1- through 5-year exposure variables to predict the number of tooth surfaces with caries experience at 4 to 7 years of age. Age at dental examination showed a significant positive association and fluoride exposure showed a significant negative association with the number of tooth surfaces with caries experience in the final model. Low intakes of nonmilk dairy foods (vs high intakes; all subjects had some nonmilk dairy intakes) and high adequate intakes of vitamin C (vs inadequate and low adequate intakes) were associated with fewer tooth surfaces having caries experience. High intakes of regular soda pop (vs none and low intakes) were associated with more tooth surfaces having caries experience.
Conclusions. Results of our study suggest that contemporary changes in beverage patterns, particularly the increase in soda pop consumption, have the potential to increase dental caries rates in children. Consumption of regular soda pop, regular powdered beverages, and, to a lesser extent, 100% juice was associated with increased caries risk. Milk had a neutral association with caries. Associations between different types of sugared beverages and caries experience were not equivalent, which could be attributable to the different sugar compositions of the beverages or different roles in the diet. Our data support contemporary dietary guidelines for children: consume 2 or more servings of dairy foods daily, limit intake of 100% juice to 4 to 6 oz daily, and restrict other sugared beverages to occasional use. Pediatricians, pediatric nurse practitioners, and dietitians are in a position to support pediatric dentists in providing preventive guidance to parents of young children.