Identification of Caries Risk Determinants in Toddlers: Results of the GUSTO Birth Cohort Study

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The aim of this study was to identify risk determinants leading to early childhood caries (ECC) and visible plaque (VP) in toddlers. Data for mother-child pairs participating in the Growing Up in Singapore towards Healthy Outcomes (GUSTO) birth cohort were collected from pregnancy to toddlerhood. Oral examinations were performed in 543 children during their clinic visit at 24 months to detect ECC and VP. Following logistic regression, ECC and VP were jointly regressed as primary and secondary outcomes, respectively, using the bivariate probit model. The ECC prevalence was 17.8% at 2 years of age, with 7.3% of children having a VP score >1. ECC was associated with nighttime breastfeeding (3 weeks) and biological factors, including Indian ethnicity (lower ECC rate), higher maternal childbearing age and existing health conditions, maternal plasma folate <6 ng/mL, child BMI, and the plaque index, while VP was associated with psychobehavioral factors, including the frequency of dental visits, brushing frequency, lower parental perceived importance of baby teeth, and weaning onto solids. Interestingly, although a higher frequency of dental visits and toothbrushing were associated with lower plaque accumulation, they were associated with increased ECC risk, suggesting that these established caries-risk factors may be a consequence rather than the cause of ECC. In conclusion, Indian toddlers may be less susceptible to ECC, compared to Chinese and Malay toddlers. The study also highlights a problem-driven utilization pattern of dental services (care sought for treatment) in Singapore, in contrast to the prevention-driven approach (care sought to prevent disease) in Western countries.

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