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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The distribution of burden of dental caries in schoolchildren: a critique of the high-risk caries prevention strategy for populations

Paul A Batchelor* and Aubrey Sheiham

Author Affiliations

Dental Public Health, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 8BT, UK

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BMC Oral Health 2006, 6:3  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-6-3

Published: 31 January 2006



The 'high-risk approach' is a commonly adopted strategy recommended for the prevention of dental caries in populations. The scientific basis for the strategy has been questioned. The objective of this study is to assess the contribution that children identified at 'high-risk' made towards the total of new caries lesions over a 4-year period, by analysing the distribution of new lesions per 100 children.


Data are from the National Preventive Dentistry Demonstration Programme (NPDDP) in the United States. The analyses identified the distribution of new carious lesions over a 4-year period in four groups of 7 year-old children who received differing preventive regimes.


The majority of new lesions occurred in those children classified at lowest caries risk at baseline. Irrespective of the preventive regime adopted and the initial caries levels, children classified as 'highest risk' contributed less than 6% of the total number of new lesions developing over 4 years.


These findings challenge the basis for the adoption of a high-risk strategy.