Background: With the increasingly polarized distribution of dental caries among children and adolescents, the usual DMFT measure has become a less meaningful population descriptor. To re-focus on identifying the high caries prevalence group the Significant Caries Index (SiC) was created. The aims of this study were to analyze the prevalence and severity of dental caries in Nevada youth over a period of eight years and to compare its expression by means of DMFT and SiC; analyze the caries trends in the population and their underlying factors, and determine whether Nevada youth were at risk for significantly high levels of dental caries.Methods: Retrospective data was analyzed from a series of sequential, standardized oral health surveys across eight years (2001/2002-2008/2009) that included over 62,000 examinations of adolescents 13-19 years of age, attending public/private Nevada schools. Mean Decayed-Missing-Filled Teeth index (DMFT) and Significant Caries Index (SiC) were subsequently computed for each academic year. Descriptive statistics were reported for analysis of comparative DMFT and SiC scores in relation to age, gender, racial background, and residence in a fluoridated/non-fluoridated community. Logistic regression analysis was used to analyze the differential impact of the variables on the probability of being in the high caries prevalence group.Results: Comparison of students' mean DMFT to National (NHANES) data confirmed that dental caries remains a common chronic disease among Nevada youth, presenting higher prevalence rates and greater mean scores than the national averages. Downward trends were found across all demographics compared between survey years 1 and 6 with the exception of survey year 3. An upward trend began in survey year six. Over time, the younger group displayed an increasing proportion of cariesfree individuals while a decreasing proportion was found among older examinees. As expected, the mean SiC score was significantly higher than DMFT scores within each survey year across comparison groups (p < 0.001).Conclusions: Using both caries indices together may help to highlight oral health inequalities more accurately among different population groups within the community in order to identify the need for special preventive oral health interventions in adolescent Nevadans. At the community level, action should focus on retaining and expanding the community fluoridation program as an effective preventive measure. At the individual level the study identifies the need for more targeted efforts to reach children early with a focus on females, Hispanics and Blacks, and uninsured children.
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