Background: Despite a significant reduction in the prevalence of dental caries, childhood tooth decay is still a public health problem in both developed and developing countries.
Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the caries preventive effect of an oral health programme for preschool children living in a low socioeconomic multicultural area in the city of Malmö, Sweden.
Methods: Eight hundred and four 2-year-old children were enrolled and recalled every third month between ages 2 and 3 and semi-annually between ages 3 and 5 years. From an outreach facility, parents were instructed on oral health with a focus on toothbrushing and diet, and provided fluoride tablets free of charge. Participants completed a clinical examination and a structured interview at age of 5 years, at which point 651 children (81%) remained in the programme. The results of the intervention group were compared with a non-intervention reference group consisting of 201 5-year-old children from the same district.
Results: In the intervention group, 96% attended four or more of their scheduled appointments, and mean caries prevalence was significantly lower than in the reference group (5.4 deft vs. 6.9 deft; P < 0.001). The prevented defs fraction was 27%. Parents' daily assistance with toothbrushing and administering fluoride tablets was significantly better in the intervention group than in the reference group (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: This study demonstrated that the early start of oral health programme had a significant beneficial effect on caries prevalence after 3 years.