Objective: We sought to determine the prevalence of caries and associated risk factors in young Native children and their caregivers in two communities in rural Alaska.
Methods: A random sample of Alaska Native children between 12-36 months and a subset of their caregivers from two Southwestern Alaska communities were examined for dental decay. Caregivers completed a 43-item questionnaire about oral hygiene, dietary and other practices.
Results: Of the 65 children examined, 59% had evidence of decay. Among the 41 primary caregivers examined, 98% had experienced dental decay with an average of 11.4 decayed, missing, and filled teeth. On linear regression analyses, factors significantly associated with more decay in the children included a child taking a juice-containing bottle to bed, eating candy 1 or more times per day, and higher caregiver oral S. mutans counts.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that preventive efforts for children at high risk for dental decay should begin early in life, should emphasize decreasing candy and bedtime juice bottle use, and should consider the caregivers' oral health status in addition to the child's.