Data on the prevalence of tooth wear among children and adolescents are inconsistent. Given the impact of extensive tooth wear for over a lifetime, evidence on the extent is required. The aim was to systematically review the literature on the prevalence of tooth wear in children and adolescents. A PubMed literature search (1980–2008) used the keywords ‘tooth’ AND ‘wear’; ‘dental’ AND ‘attrition’ AND ‘prevalence’; ‘dental’ AND ‘wear’ AND ‘prevalence’; ‘erosion AND prevalence’ AND ‘abrasion AND prevalence’. Following exclusion criteria, 29 papers were reviewed using established review methods. There was a total of 45,186 subjects (smallest study 80 and largest study 17,047 subjects) examined from thirteen multiple random clusters, eight multiple convenience clusters and eight convenience clusters. Nine different tooth wear indices were used, but the common denominator among studies was dentin exposure as an indicator of severe wear. Forest plots indicated substantial heterogeneity of the included studies. Prevalence of wear involving dentin ranged from 0 to 82% for deciduous teeth in children up to 7 years; regression analysis showed age and wear to be significantly related. Most of the studies in the permanent dentition showed low dentin exposure, a few reported high prevalence (range 0–54%); age and wear were not related (regression analysis). The results of this systematic review indicate that the prevalence of tooth wear leading to dentin exposure in deciduous teeth increases with age. Increase in wear of permanent teeth with age in adolescents up to 18 years old was not substantiated.
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