Objective: Dental caries among preschool children remains a significant dental public health problem. In Ireland, there are no national data available regarding dental caries levels in preschool children. Furthermore, the number of young children with disabilities and their dental caries levels remains unknown. The aim of the present study was to measure the dental caries levels in a sample of preschool children with disabilities.
Method and Materials: A team of trained and calibrated dentists examined a sample of all 0- to 6-yearold preschool children with disabilities in two health service administrative areas under standardized conditions. Dental caries was recorded using WHO criteria.
Results: Of a total of 422 participants, 337 datasets were included in the study. Of these 337 examined children, approximately 75.1% had a cognitive disability and 12.9% had a noncognitive disability. In 12% of the children, a diagnosis had not yet been established. Dental caries at dentin level was detected from the age of 4 years. The overall mean decayed/missing/ filled teeth (dmft) was 0.49 (SD, 1.39). The analysis of mean dmft levels in children with positive (dmft > 0) scores revealed a mean dmft of 1.14.
Conclusion: The evidence from this study demonstrated that dental caries levels in preschool children with disabilities in Ireland are low when compared with the general population. Furthermore, children aged 3 years or younger exhibited no dental caries at dentin level and therefore were not affected by early childhood caries. An adjustment of current oral health prevention practice may lead to a further reduction in dental caries levels in this section of the child population.
Keywords: caries experience, disability, Ireland, preschool children, primary teeth