Asthma and tooth decay

Sept. 21, 2010
New study shows that there is no connection between asthma and tooth decay in children.

In the past, there have been suggestions that asthma and tooth decay were linked, especially for children.

The new report, "Is there a relationship between asthma and dental caries?: A critical review of the literature" examined 27 separate studies. Published in 29 different papers between 1976 and March 2010, the studies looked into possible connections between asthma and dental caries.

Gerardo Maupomé, professor of preventive and community dentistry at the Indiana University School of Dentistry and author of the new study, said: “We found little evidence to suggest that asthma causes tooth decay. In fact, the two largest studies we reviewed found that children with asthma appear to have fewer cavities than others. This may be because their parents are used to taking them to health-care providers, and routinely bring them to the dentist.

“The notion that there is a link between asthma and tooth decay may have its origin in anecdotal statements by emergency room workers who see children with poorly managed asthma.

“These children could also be more likely to have poorly managed dental conditions, and therefore tooth decay. It's reasonable to believe that poor clinical management may be associated with both conditions, not the asthma that is causing the cavities.”

The study does acknowledge that it is difficult to explicitly determine if there is a connection between asthma and dental decay, predominately because of the large number of variables related to asthma. This includes the range of treatments for the illness and the severity of asthma symptoms. Yet, researchers suggest there is no need for parents with asthmatic children to be concerned.

However, children who use nebulizers to control their asthma may be increasing their exposure to sugars since nebulizers often contain fructose. Frequent intake of sugar can lead to tooth decay since sugar reacts with the plaque on teeth and forms an acid that gradually dissolves the protective enamel coating on the teeth.

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, advises the best way to protect children’s teeth from decay is to make sure they brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. It is also important to cut down how often sugar occurs in a child’s diet.

Dr. Carter said: “It is vital that children brush their teeth both morning and night for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste and visit their dentist as often as recommended."

Sugary foods and drinks can damage the teeth. Instead, replace these with healthy snacks such as cheese, raw vegetables, seeds, bread, crackers, breadsticks and fruit, and try to encourage children to drink more milk and water. Parents should try and reduce the number of "snack attacks" to no more than three meals and two snacks a day.

“These simple changes to a child’s diet and oral health routine can really help decrease risks of tooth decay and other oral health problems,” Dr. Carter said.

For further information about tooth decay, or any other oral health issue, contact the British Dental Health Foundation at

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