This project examined the relative significance of dietary sugars, toothbrushing frequency and social class as predictors of caries experience (caries vs. no caries) among 1,450 British pre-school children who took part in the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. This cross-sectional survey was based on a representative sample of children aged 1.5-4.5 years studied in 1992/3. Children were classified into four groups according to social class and toothbrushing habit. Diet/caries associations were examined for biscuits and cakes, sugar confectionery, chocolate confectionery and soft drinks, and the percentage of energy from non-milk extrinsic sugars, using data on amount and frequency of consumption from 4-day weighed dietary records. In stepwise logistic regressions, the strength of the association between social class and caries experience was twice that between toothbrushing and caries, and nearly three times that between sugar confectionery and caries (other dietary variables were not significant). The association of caries with sugar confectionery (both in amount and frequency) was only present among children whose teeth were brushed less than twice a day. Toothbrushing frequency appeared to have a stronger impact on caries prevention in non-manual compared with manual children. Household expenditure on confectionery was associated with caries only among children from the manual group. The findings suggest the hypothesis that regular brushing (twice a day) with a fluoride toothpaste may have greater impact on caries in young children than restricting sugary foods.