Current understanding of the epidemiology mechanisms, and prevention of dental caries in preschool children

Pediatr Dent. 2002 Nov-Dec;24(6):543-51.


The seriousness and societal costs of dental caries in preschool children are enormous. National data shows that caries is highly prevalent in poor and near poor US preschool children, yet this disease is infrequently treated. The etiology includes elevated colonization levels of mutans streptococci, high frequency sugar consumption, and developmental defects on primary teeth. A necessary first step in preventing dental caries in preschool children is evaluating the child's caries risk factors that include socioeconomic status, previous carious experience, presence of white spot lesions, presence of visible plaque, perceived risk by dental professionals, and microbiologic testing for the presence or quantity of mutans streptococci. Based on this knowledge, different preventive strategies, as well as different intensities of preventive therapies, can be employed. Caries preventive strategies in preschool children include diet modifications to reduce high frequency sugar consumption, supervised tooth brushing with fluoridated dentifrice, systemic fluoride supplements to children living in a nonfluoridated area that are at risk for caries, professional topical fluoride with fluoride varnish, and sealants for primary molars.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cariostatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child, Preschool
  • DMF Index
  • Dental Caries / epidemiology*
  • Dental Caries / etiology
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control
  • Dental Caries Susceptibility
  • Dental Enamel / abnormalities
  • Dental Plaque / epidemiology
  • Dentifrices / therapeutic use
  • Dietary Sucrose / adverse effects
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Fluorides / therapeutic use
  • Fluorides, Topical / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Pit and Fissure Sealants / therapeutic use
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Class
  • Streptococcus mutans / physiology
  • Tooth, Deciduous / abnormalities
  • Toothbrushing
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Cariostatic Agents
  • Dentifrices
  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Fluorides, Topical
  • Pit and Fissure Sealants
  • Fluorides