Objectives: Early childhood caries (ECC) is a devastating form of dental decay with multi-factorial origin. The aim of this cross-sectional study is to investigate the prevalence and related risk factors of ECC in preschool children of urban Bangalore (India).
Methods: A random sample of 1,500 children aged between 8 and 48 months were selected from various parts of urban Bangalore. The status of dental caries was recorded according to the World Health Organization (WHO) criteria. Information regarding oral hygiene practices, feeding habits, socio-economic status, birth weight, and educational status of the mother was obtained through a structured questionnaire given to mothers of preschool children. The data was subjected to statistical analysis using the Statistical package for social sciences (SPSS) version 12.
Results: The prevalence of ECC in preschool children was 27.5%, while the mean deft was 0.854. ECC increased significantly with age. Children whose mothers had no schooling and those who belonged to low socioeconomic group showed higher caries prevalence. A significant increase in caries prevalence was found in children accustomed to the practice of on-demand breast feeding and bottle feeding at night. Caries also increased significantly when snacks were consumed between meals. However, increased frequency of tooth-brushing, parental supervision, use of a baby toothbrush, and fluoridated dentifrice significantly decreased caries prevalence.
Conclusion: ECC is a serious public health problem in this population and measures to increase awareness should be undertaken. The target candidates for oral health promotion programs should include mothers, general dentists, pediatricians, nurses, primary care health workers, care-takers at day-care centers and gynecologists.
Keywords: Early childhood caries; feeding habits; oral hygiene; preschool; prevalence; socioeconomic status.