BACKGROUND: In this study, the authors tested the frequency of dentists' recommendations for and use of caries-preventive agents for children as compared with adults. METHODS: The authors surveyed 467 general dentists in the Dental Practice-Based Research Network who practice within the United States and treat both pediatric and adult patients. They asked dentists to identify the percentage of their patients for whom they had administered or recommended dental sealants, in-office and at-home fluoride, chlorhexidine rinse and xylitol gum. RESULTS: Dentists were less likely to provide adult patients than pediatric patients with in-office caries-preventive agents. However, the rate at which they recommended at-home preventive regimens for the two groups of patients was similar. Dentists with a conservative approach to caries treatment were the most likely to use and recommend the use of caries-preventive agents at similar rates in adults as in children. In addition, dentists in practices with a greater number of patients who had dental insurance were significantly more likely to provide in-office fluoride or sealants to adult patients than to pediatric patients. CONCLUSION: General dentists use in-office caries-preventive agents more commonly with their pediatric patients than with their adult patients. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: General dentists should consider providing additional in-office caries-preventive agents for their adult patients who are at increased risk of experiencing dental caries.