Assessing risk indicators for dental caries in the primary dentition

J Vanobbergen, L Martens, E Lesaffre, K Bogaerts, D Declerck
Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology 2001, 29 (6): 424-34
The aim of the present study was to assess indicators shown to be associated with the prevalence of caries in the primary dentition of 7-year-old Flemish schoolchildren. Cross-sectional first year data of the longitudinal Signal-Tandmobiel survey were analysed (n=4468). Gender, age, oral hygiene habits, use of fluorides, dietary habits, geographical factors and parental modelling were the considered predictors. From the multiple logistic regression analysis, including schools as a random effect, and after adjusting for the confounding variables-educational system and province (stratification variables), gender and age-it became clear that the following risk indicators remained significant (at 5% level) for the presence of caries: frequency of toothbrushing (P=0.05) with an OR 1.24 for brushing less than once a day, age at start of brushing (P<0.001) with an OR=1.22 for a delay of 1 year, regular use of fluoride supplements (P<0.001) with an OR=1.54 for no use, daily use of sugar-containing drinks between meals (P<0.001) with an OR=1.38, and number of between-meals snacks (P=0.012) with an OR=1.22 for using more than 2 between-meal snacks. There was a significant difference (P<0.05) in caries experience determined by the geographical spread, with an explicit trend of caries declining from the east to the west. In a model with an ordinal response outcome, the daily use of sugar-containing drinks between meals had a more pronounced effect when caries levels were high. From this study it became obvious that, in Flemish children, an early start of brushing and a brushing frequency of at least once a day need to be encouraged, while the use of sugar-containing drinks and snacks between meals needs to be restricted to a maximum of 2 per day. Geographical differences need to be investigated in more detail.

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