Dental epidemiological surveys of children often focus on caries levels of five-year-olds as they are accessible and amenable to examination. Standardised surveys of this age group have been successfully carried out in the UK for many years. If improvements to caries level at age five are to be made then it is important to know when caries develops in the preceding years and what the likely causes are. This paper reports on the feasibility, utility and impact of a standardised survey of three-year-old children which took place in England. Method: Standardised examinations were carried out on consented three-year-olds attending child care sites which had been randomly sampled using a method described in a national protocol. Feasibility was assessed by compliance results, utility from examples of use of the data and impact by a count of media responses at the time of publication. Results: Data from 53,814 examinations provided caries level estimates for 88% of lower tier local authorities, this number representing 8% of the population of this age cohort. Of the children for whom parental consent was provided, 8% refused to be examined at school and 9% were absent. The arising information was used in a variety of ways by local authorities and health planners. The media response was strong with coverage by TV, radio, printed press and online reporting. Conclusion: This national survey of the oral health of three year olds was feasible but more labour intensive than surveys of school age children and the information derived has good utility and impact.
- Dental epidemiology