To explore the relative contributions of genetic and environmental influences on dental caries risk and to investigate fetal and developmental risk factors for dental caries.


We recruited children from 250 twin pregnancies midgestation and collected demographic, health, and phenotypic data at recruitment, 24 and 36 weeks’ gestational age, birth and 18 months, and 6 years of age. 25-hydroxyvitamin D was quantified in mothers at 28 weeks’ gestation and in infants at birth. Dental caries and enamel defects were measured at six years of age. We compared concordance for the presence of any caries and advanced caries in monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs. To investigate environmental risk factors for caries, we fitted multiple logistic regression models using generalized estimating equations to adjust for twin correlation.


A total of 345 twins underwent dental assessment, with 111 (32.2%) showing signs of any caries and 83 (24.1%) having advanced caries. There was no evidence of higher concordance in monozygotic twins compared with dizygotic twins, with a difference of 0.05 (95% confidence interval −0.14 to 0.25; P = .30) and 0.00 (95% confidence interval −0.26 to 0.26; P = .50) for any caries and advanced caries, respectively, suggesting that environmental factors, rather than genetics, are the predominant determinant of caries risk. After adjusting for potential confounders, lack of community water fluoridation, hypomineralized second primary molars, dichorionic placenta, and maternal obesity were associated with caries.


Environmental rather than genetic factors drive dental caries risk and arise as early as prenatal life.

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