The proportion of Norwegian preschool children with dental caries experience has decreased during the last decades and the caries distribution has become skewed. Some children develop caries in early life, and caries may affect body weight, growth and quality of life in children. The social environment influences child development, including the risk for developing dental caries. The purpose of this paper was to summarize knowledge from the literature regarding parental influence on caries development in preschool children with focus on recent Norwegian research based on the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort study. The results from the literature review showed that characteristics of the family and parental oral health behaviours and lifestyle may be associated with caries development in preschool children. These associations were recently confirmed in the Norwegian setting with low caries prevalence in children, high educational level in the population, and comprehensive dental service free of charge for children. In conclusion, the literature establishes associations between parental factors that are known during pregnancy and early parenthood and caries development in early childhood. These risk indicators may be used by health care personnel to identify risk children and target preventive care at children before dental caries has developed.
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