The Global Prevalence Of Early Childhood Caries: A Systematic Review with Meta-analysis Using the WHO Diagnostic Criteria

Sergio E. Uribe (Lead / Corresponding author), Nicola Innes, Ilze Maldupa

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

104 Citations (Scopus)
313 Downloads (Pure)


Aim: To estimate the global prevalence of early childhood caries using the WHO criteria.

Design: Systematic review of studies published from 1960 to 2019. Data sources: PubMed, Google Scholar, SciELO, and LILACS. Eligibility criteria were articles using: dmft-WHO diagnostic criteria with calibrated examiners, probability sampling, and sample sizes. Study selection: Two reviewers searched, screened, and extracted information from the selected articles. All pooled analyses were based on random-effects models. The protocol is available on PROSPERO 2014 registration code CRD42014009578.

Results: From 472 reports, 214 used WHO criteria and 125 fit the inclusion criteria. Sixty-four reports of 67 countries (published 1992-2019) had adequate data to be summarised in the meta-analysis. They covered 29 countries/59018 children. Global random-effects pooled prevalence was (percentage[95% CI]) 48[43, 53]. The prevalence by continent was Africa: 30[19, 45]; Americas: 48 [42, 54]; Asia: 52[43, 61]; Europe: 43[24, 66]; and Oceania: 82[73, 89]. Differences across countries explain 21.2% of the observed variance.

Conclusions: Early childhood caries is a global health problem, affecting almost half of preschool children. Results are reported from 29 of 195 countries. ECC prevalence varied widely, and there was more variance attributable to between-country differences rather than continent or change over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)817-830
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Paediatric Dentistry
Issue number6
Early online date18 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • early childhood caries
  • epidemiology
  • oral health
  • preschool children
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry


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