dental caries has a multifactorial etiology, including socio-economic variables and access to dental care, which were discussed in the national survey conducted in 2002. the aim of this study was to investigate the socio-economic aspects and access to dental care, associated with caries prevalence and severity in adolescents from the state of s？o paulo. the study design was cross-sectional, on which data on 1,825 adolescents aged 15 to 19 years achieved from the data of an epidemiological survey conducted in the state of s？o paulo in 2002 were analyzed. epidemiological exams and interviews with previously formulated questions were used in the survey. the significant caries index (sic index) was utilized to determine the group with higher caries experience. frequency distribution and chi-square association tests were carried out in order to evaluate the relationship between independent variables and the dependent variable (dmft). confidence intervals and odds ratio (or) were estimated. the risk factors pointed as indicators of presence of dental caries were as follows: not being a student, studying at public schools, family income lower than 5 brazilian minimum wages. moreover, not having an own house or a car seemed to contribute to caries experience. with regard to the access to public dental care, the adolescents assisted at public centers and looking for emergency dental care had the higher caries experience. thus, the results showed that social deprivation is associated with caries experience in adolescents from the state of s？o paulo.