We analyzed fluid intake data among children aged 2-10 years from a 24-hour dietary recall interview in the NHANES III (1988-94) to investigate the effect of high consumption of carbonated soft drinks on caries in the primary dentition. We used cluster analysis to determine fluid consumption patterns. Four distinct fluid consumption patterns were identified: high carbonated soft drinks, high juice, high milk, and high water. About 13% of children had a high carbonated soft drink consumption pattern; they also had a significantly higher dental caries experience in the primary dentition than did children with other fluid consumption patterns. A fluid intake pattern comprised mainly of milk, water, or juice was less likely to be associated with dental caries. Findings of this study suggest that high consumption of carbonated soft drinks by young children is a risk indicator for dental caries in the primary dentition and should be discouraged.