To present and analyse changes in caries prevalence and caries distribution in child population sample groups in the city of Jönköping, Sweden, based on investigations performed in 1973, 1978, 1983, 1993, 2003, and 2013.
At each investigation, the study population included about 500 randomly sampled individuals, divided into age groups of 3, 5, 10, 15, and 20 years. The oral health status of all individuals was clinically and radiographically examined by trained paediatric dentists.
35% of the 3-year-olds were caries-free in 1973, compared to 79% 40 years later. Decayed and filled primary (dfs) and permanent (DFS) tooth surfaces were reduced by 67-90% between 1973 and 2013. Adolescents aged 10 and 15 years exhibited the most pronounced reduction in DFS on the occlusal surfaces. By 2013, more than 90% of the proximal caries lesions in 15-year-olds were initial lesions. About 85% of 15-year-olds had a DFS of = 5, whilst 1% exhibited a DFS of = 26. The corresponding figures for 1973 were 0 and 45% respectively. The DFS score for the 20-year-olds was 35.1 in 1973 and 5.8 in 2013. Caries-free 20-year-olds were not seen until 1993 and reached 19% in 2013.
Despite the dramatic decline in the prevalence of caries, caries still remains a health problem in a limited group of children, particularly those of pre-school ages. Repeated epidemiological studies are recommended to follow changes in oral health over time in order to evaluate existing preventive measures.