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Public Health Rep. 1997 Jul-Aug;112(4):319-29; 330-1.

Dental caries prevalence and treatment levels in Arizona preschool children.

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Office of Oral Health, Arizona Department of Health Services, Phoenix, USA.



To assess the prevalence of dental caries in a large group of preschool children, to determine the extent to which the children received dental treatment, to examine the association between demographic and socioeconomic factors and the prevalence of caries, and to compare these findings with those from previous studies of preschool populations in the United States.


Dental caries exams were performed on 5171 children ages 5 months through 4 years, and a parent or other caregiver was asked to complete a questionnaire giving information about the child and her or his household. The children were recruited from Head Start programs; Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition programs; health fairs; and day care centers in a representative sample of Arizona communities with populations of more than 1000 people.


Of the 994 one-year-old children examined, 6.4% had caries, with a mean dmft (decayed, missing [extracted due to caries], and filled teeth) score of 0.18. Nearly 20% of the 2-year-olds had caries, with a mean dmft of 0.70. Thirty-five percent of the 3-year-olds had caries, with a mean dmft of 1.35, and 49% of the 4-year-olds had caries, with a mean dmft of 2.36. Children whose caregivers fell into the lowest education category had a mean dmft score three times higher than those with caregivers in the highest education category. Children with caregivers in the lowest income category had a mean dmft score four times higher than those with caregivers in the highest category. Children younger than age 3 had little evidence of dental treatment, and most of the children with caries in each age group had no filled or extracted teeth.


The data show that dental caries is highly prevalent in this preschool population, with little of the disease being treated. Timing of diagnostic examinations and prevention strategies for preschool children need to be reconsidered, especially for children identified as having a high risk of caries.

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