The findings of Rich Forshee and Maureen Storey, research faculty members with Virginia Tech's Center for Food and Nutrition Policy, are based on an analysis of a large, nationally representative nutrition and health survey conducted by the federal government.
"Our study shows that age is related to dental cavities," said Forshee. "The older we get, the more problems we are likely to encounter."
Forshee said the data show that regular consumption of carbonated soft drinks is not associated with dental cavities among adolescents, young adults, or older adults. There was, however, a positive association between soft drink consumption and dental cavities among adults in the 25-to-40 age group.
He also said they found a modest association between socioeconomic status and cavities in those 17 to 40 years of age. Respondents to the survey who had more income and more education had slightly fewer cavities than those with less income and less education.
Among those over 40, the study found that African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and respondents of "other races" have fewer dental cavities than do Caucasians. Mexican-Americans in the 25-to-40 age group also reported fewer cavities than Caucasians. Females had four to five more dental cavities on average than males.
In March, a consensus conference of the National Institutes of Health reported remarkable progress during the last 30 years in the fight against tooth decay in the United States. That conference urged consumers and health professionals to continue practices likely to have contributed to oral health improvement. Among those practices are using a variety of fluoride products, modifying diets, having pits and fissures in teeth sealed, practicing good oral hygiene, and having regular professional care.
The study by Forshee and Storey used data from the federal National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III. The study of the data from that survey was supported by an unrestricted grant from the National Soft Drink Association. The researchers used standard statistical techniques similar to those used in evaluations of other major health studies.
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