The aim of this study was to determine whether a high degree of dental caries severity is associated with the distal and proximal determinants of caries in a group of Brazilian adults aged 35 to 44 years. A population-based case-control study was conducted using two groups—a case group with high caries severity (DMFT ≥ 14) and a control group without high caries severity (DMFT < 14). The sample comprised adults from metropolitan Belo Horizonte, Brazil (180 cases and 180 controls matched for gender and age). The exam was performed by calibrated dentists using the DMFT index. The statistical analysis used the Mann-Whitney test and bivariate and multivariate logistic regression (the conditional backward stepwise method). The mean DMFT was 8.4 ± 3.9 in the control group and 20.1 ± 4.5 in the case group. High caries severity was associated with regular visits to the dentist, low income, use of private/supplementary dental service and not petitioning the authorities for community benefits. The results of the study underscore the importance of considering distal and proximal factors in the assessment of the severity of dental caries. Greater caries severity persists among low-income families and among groups with a low degree of social cohesion.
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