Scientists believe that modern lifestyle habits may have a greater role to play in preventing tooth decay than the kinds of food people eat.
Many experts have argued that sugar is the main cause of tooth decay, but a review of 31 studies in the journal Obesity Reviews has found that most did not uncover any link between the amount of sugar consumed and tooth decay.
The reviewers concluded that the effects of modern lifestyle habits, including fluoride toothpaste, good oral hygiene and health education, may outweigh the effects of food on tooth decay.
Professor Monty Duggal, a consultant and head of paediatric dentistry at Leeds dental institute and author of the review, commented: "Nowadays, it's not enough to just look at what we eat when talking about tooth decay, as other factors seem to be as important.
"Fluoride toothpaste changes the effect that some foods have on the teeth, as do other good oral hygiene practices."
Professor Duggal believes that future research should look at a number of lifestyle factors that may affect tooth decay.
Figures obtained by the Conservative party recently revealed that more than 36,000 children are admitted to hospital with tooth decay every year.