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Keywords:

  • dental caries;
  • disadvantaged population;
  • early childhood caries;
  • preschool children;
  • risk factor

Abstract

Early childhood caries is a significant international public health problem. The aim of this paper was to review the current evidence of the risk factors for dental caries in disadvantaged children under 6 years of age. Medline, Cochrane, and PubMed database searches were conducted. Systematic reviews were used where available, or meta-analyses; randomized, controlled trials; and cohort, case-control, and cross-sectional studies (in that order). Studies were restricted to those published in English from 1990 to October 2010. Early childhood caries has a complex etiology with biological, behavioral, and sociodemographic influences. Evidence suggests that young children are most likely to develop caries if Streptococcus mutans is acquired at an early age, although this is influenced by other factors, such as oral hygiene, fluoride, diet, dental visit patterns, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and health literacy. Etiological pathways should be taken into consideration when designing interventions to prevent dental caries in disadvantaged preschool children.