Objective. The medical centre at Almirante Nef Naval Hospital, Vina del Mar, Chile, operates a mother and child preventive dental program (PDP) which includes women from their fourth month of pregnancy and mothers with their offspring. The aim was to evaluate the effectiveness of this prenatal and postnatal prevention program after the first four years.
Methods. The prevalence of early childhood caries of 180 1- to 3·5-year-old children enrolled in the PDP was compared with 180 non-participating children. The control group was randomly selected from the rolls of the healthy child system of the Valparaiso-San Antonio Health Service and was comparable by age, socio-economic status and level of fluoride in the drinking water (1·0 p.p.m. F) with the PDP group. Clinical caries examinations were conducted by two calibrated examiners using the WHO visual criteria.
Results. In the PDP group, 97% of the children were caries free compared with the 77% in the control group. The dft (mean ± SD) of the PDP children was 0·11 ± 0·78 versus 0·66 ± 1·55 for the control children, a difference of 83·3%. The differences between the groups in caries-free status and caries prevalence were both statistically significant (P < 0·05).
Conclusions. The preventive dental program was effective in inhibiting caries in pre-school children, even in a population already receiving the benefits of community water fluoridation.