The distribution of caries was determined in 560 dentitions from a 19th century community (Ashton-under-Lyne), of which 255 were from a pre-1850 burial site (average year of death 1841) and 305 from a post-1850 site (average year of death 1876). A few years before 1850, changes in the laws governing sugar and wheat imports resulted in a rapid increase in the consumption of these commodities. The pattern of caries during this century showed a continuation of trends previously observed in the 17th century. These included increases in overall caries prevalence and in the frequency of cavities at interstitial contact areas and occlusal fissures. Both of these trends had made only moderate progress in the pre-1850 sample but had intensified greatly after 1850. Cavities at cemento-enamel junctions had also increased in the 19th century but to a lesser extent than at contact areas. Broadly similar trends were found in the deciduous dentition. The close correlation between dietary changes and trends in the caries pattern is strongly suggestive of a causal relationship between the amount of refined carbohydrate consumed and the distribution as well as the overall prevalence of cavities.

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