Abstract – Objectives: The aim of the present study was to examine the prevalence and severity of caries experience in the primary dentition of preschool children and to assess the association of disease distribution with oral hygiene levels, reported oral health behaviours and socio-demographic factors.
Methods: Study samples comprised 1250 3-year-old and 1283 5-year-old pre-school children from four distinct geographical areas in Flanders. Information on oral hygiene and dietary habits, oral health behaviours and socio-demographic variables was collected using questionnaires completed by the parents. Clinical examinations were performed using standardized criteria. Caries experience was recorded at the level of cavitation (d3 level). Simple as well as multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed in order to identify factors associated with prevalence and severity of caries experience.
Results: Visible plaque was present in 31% of 3-year-olds and 37% of 5-year-olds. In 3-year-olds, 7% presented with caries experience while this was the case in 31% of 5-year-olds. Multivariable logistic regression revealed significant associations, in 3-year-olds, of caries experience with presence of dental plaque (OR = 7.93; 95% CI: 2.56–24.55) and reported consumption of sugared drinks at night (OR = 7.96; 95% CI: 1.57–40.51). In 5-year-olds, significant associations were seen with age (OR = 7.79; 95% CI: 2.38–25.43), gender (OR = 0.37 with 95% CI: 0.19–0.71 for girls), presence of visible dental plaque (OR = 3.36; 95% CI: 1.64–6.89) and reported habit of having sugar-containing drinks in between meals (OR = 2.60 with 95% CI: 1.16–5.84 and OR = 3.18 with 95% CI: 1.39–7.28, respectively for 1×/day and > 1×/day versus not every day). In 5-year-olds with caries experience (30.8% of total sample), the severity of disease was further analysed (d3mft between 1 and 4 versus d3mft 5 or higher). Multivariable analyses showed a significant association with gender [girls more likely to have higher disease levels; OR = 4.67 (95% CI: 1.65–13.21)] and with presence of plaque (OR = 3.91 with 95% CI: 1.23–12.42).
Conclusions: Presence of visible plaque accumulation and reported consumption of sugared drinks were associated with prevalence of caries experience in Flemish preschool children. Severity of disease was associated with gender and with presence of plaque. Results underline the importance of plaque control and diet management from very young age on.