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Module 3: Caries Risk Assessment

Key Points

  • Caries risk assessment is based on the premise that all children are not equally likely to develop oral health problems.
  • Children at high risk for dental caries include those (1) with limited exposure to fluoride; (2) with special health care needs; (3) from families with low incomes; (4) whose parents or siblings have dental caries; (5) with visible white spot lesions, dental caries, or plaque; (6) who are immigrants; and (7) who frequently consume foods or beverages containing sugar.
  • The caries risk assessment should begin with a dental history of the child and an assessment of the parent’s or other primary caregiver’s oral health.
  • To conduct an oral health screening, providers need adequate lighting, gloves (preferably non-latex), a tongue depressor or mouth mirror, and a risk assessment tool. A dental chair is not needed.
  • When conducting an oral health screening, a medical provider should look for the following: (1) eruption of primary teeth, (2) healthy teeth and gums, (3) dental plaque, (4) non-cavitated white spot lesions, (5) cavitated lesions, and (6) severe decay.
  • When conducting an oral health screening, a medical provider may observe conditions other than tooth decay, such as developmental defects, neonatal teeth, a nonvital tooth, or dental trauma.
  • Caries risk assessment tools provide a means for classifying dental caries risk at a single point in time.