The aim of this study was to assess differences in dental health between socioeconomic and ethnic groups in a cohort of 5-yr-old children born in 1982 and in a cohort of 11-yr-old children born in 1976. A further aim was to evaluate the putative role of dental behaviors as intervening factors between ethnicity and maternal education on the one hand and caries experience on the other. A secondary analysis was performed on data collected in a study monitoring the oral health of youths covered by public health insurance (Ziekenfonds) in the Netherlands. The results showed both ethnicity and maternal education to be indicators of caries risk in the primary dentition. For caries in the permanent dentition, only maternal education could be identified as a risk indicator. Dental behaviors were related to caries experience as well as to ethnicity and maternal education, though the evidence for the role of these dental behaviors as intervening factors was weak. It is concluded that the validity and reliability of the behavioral measurements might be questionable and that the mechanism underlying the differences in caries experience between the various groups is still little understood.