Objective. This cross-sectional study investigated the prevalence and severity of dental caries and their association with demographic and socio-economic variables in Brazilian preschoolers.
Methods. The study population comprised 1487 0- to 5-year-old children attending government nurseries in Canoas, southern Brazil. Questionnaires regarding information related to the independent variables (age, gender, maternal level of education, and family income) were completed by the parents. Clinical examinations were carried out by five trained examiners and results were expressed using the deft index (World Health Organization criteria), including white spots. The outcomes considered in this study were caries occurrence (deft > 0) and caries severity (deft).
Results. Forty per cent of the children (589/1487) presented dental caries [mean deft (SD): 1.53 (2.75)]. Deft increased with age (P < 0.001) and was significantly higher in children from mothers with low educational level (P = 0.001) and low family income (P = 0.001). The greatest increase in caries prevalence and severity occurred between age groups of 1 and 2 years. Logistic regression demonstrated higher odds of dental caries with mother's completing < 4 years education, after adjusting for confounding.
Conclusion. These findings indicate the need for preventive programmes, which should begin in the first year of life, with special attention given to families with mothers presenting low education levels.