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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Oral Health 1/2015

Clinical consequences of untreated dental caries in German 5- and 8-year-olds

BMC Oral Health > Ausgabe 1/2015
Katrin Grund, Inka Goddon, Ina M. Schüler, Thomas Lehmann, Roswitha Heinrich-Weltzien
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

RHW and IMSCH conceptualised the paper and reviewed the paper for content, including the final version of the manuscript. RHW, IMSCH and IG developed the study design. IG organised and conducted the clinical examination. KG collected the data, performed the statistical analysis, conducted the literature review and authored the major portion of the manuscript. IMSCH and TL contributed towards statistical analysis and data handling. All authors have read and approved the manuscript.



About half of all carious lesions in primary teeth of German 6- to 7-year-old children remain untreated, but no data regarding the clinical consequences of untreated dental caries are available. Therefore, this cross-sectional observational study aimed to assess the prevalence and experience of caries and odontogenic infections in the primary dentition of 5- and 8-year-old German children.


Dental examinations were performed in 5-year-old pre-school children (n = 496) and in 8-year-old primary school children (n = 608) living in the Westphalian Ennepe-Ruhr district. Schools and preschools were selected by sociodemographic criteria including size, area, ownership, socio-economic status. Caries was recorded according to WHO criteria (1997). The Lorenz curves were used to display the polarisation of dental caries. Caries pattern in 5-year-olds was categorized by Wyne’s (1997) definition of early childhood caries (ECC). Odontogenic infections as clinical consequence of untreated dental caries were assessed by the pufa index. The ‘untreated caries-pufa ratio’ was calculated, and the Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient (ρ) was used for evaluating the correlation between dmft and pufa scores. Categorical data were compared between groups using the chi-square test and continuous data were analysed by t-test.


Caries prevalence and experience in the primary dentition was 26.2 %/0.9 ± 2.0 dmft in 5-year-olds and 48.8 %/2.1 ± 2.8 dmft in 8-year-olds. ECC type I (22 %) was the prevalent caries pattern in 5-year-olds. About 30 % of the tooth decay was treated (5y: 29.7 %/8y: 39.3 %). The Lorenz curves showed a strong caries polarisation on 20 % of the children. Pufa prevalence and experience was 4.4 %/0.1 ± 0.5 pufa in 5-year-olds and 16.6 %/0.3 ± 0.9 pufa in 8-year-olds. In 5-year-olds 14.2 % and in 8-year-olds 34.2 % of the d-component had progressed mainly to the pulp. A significant correlation between dmft and pufa scores exists in both age groups (5y: ρ = 0.399; 8y: ρ = 0.499). First deciduous molars were most frequently affected by odontogenic infections, presenting virtually all pufa scores (>95 %).


Prevalence and experience of odontogenic infections and the untreated caries-pufa ratio were increasing from the younger to the elder children. Dmft and pufa scores in primary teeth predict a higher caries risk in permanent teeth. The pufa index highlights relevant information for decision makers to develop effective oral health care programs for children at high risk for caries.
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