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This article is part of the supplement: Biotechnology and Biomaterials to Reduce the Caries Epidemic

Open Access Proceedings

The Effect of a Needs-Related Caries Preventive Program in Children and Young Adults – Results after 20 Years

P Axelsson

Author Affiliations

Department of Preventive Dentistry, Public Dental Health Service, Karlstad, Sweden

BMC Oral Health 2006, 6(Suppl 1):S7  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-6-S1-S7

Published: 15 June 2006


The risk for caries development in children varies significantly for different age groups, individuals, teeth, and surfaces. Thus from a cost-effectiveness point of view, caries preventive measures must be integrated and based on predicted risk from age group down to individual tooth surfaces. Based on this philosophy and experiences from continuously ongoing research on evaluating and reevaluating separate and integrated caries preventive measures, as well as methods for prediction of caries risk, a needs-related caries preventive program was introduced for all 0–19-year-olds in the county of Värmland, Sweden, in 1979. The goals for the subjects following the program from birth to the age of 19 years were:

1. To have no approximal restorations.

2. To have no occlusal amalgam restorations.

3. To have no approximal loss of periodontal attachment.

4. To motivate and encourage individuals to assume responsibility for their own oral health.

The effect of the program is evaluated once every year on almost 100% of all 3–19-year-olds in a computer-aided epidemiologic program from 1979. Most of the individualized preventive program was carried out by dental hygienists or prophy dental assistants at clinics in the elementary schools. During the 20-year period the percentage of caries-free 3-year-olds increased from 51% to 97%. In 1999 as many as 86% of the 12-year-olds were caries free. Caries incidence was reduced more than 90% in all age groups. More than 90% did not develop any new caries lesions in 1999. As a consequence, caries prevalence was dramatically reduced. In 12- and 19-year-olds, the mean number of Decayed and Filled Surfaces (DFS) per individual was reduced from 6 to 0.3 and from 23 to 2 respectively. In 19-year-olds the mean number of approximal DFS was <1, and only 0.5 had to be filled. The mean number of occlusal DFS was <1. Since 1995 we have not been allowed to use amalgam in 1–19-year-olds in Sweden. As an effect of our high quality plaque program, approximal attachment loss was prevented, and by efficient education in self-care based on self-diagnosis, needs-related self-care habits were established. Thus it can be concluded that nearly 100% of our goals had been achieved.