The role of genetic and environmental factors on dental caries progression in young children was determined. A detailed caries assessment was performed in 2 examinations on 314 pairs of twins initially 1.5 to 8 years old. Surface-based caries prevalence rates (SBCPR) and lesion severity (LSI) were computed. Heritability estimates were calculated by SOLAR software. Analyses were performed on all ages combined and by age group (1.5-< 4; 4-6; > 6). Overall heritability estimates (H) of net increments SBCPRs were H = 30.0 (p < 0.0001), and were greatest for the youngest (H = 30.0) and oldest groups (H = 46.3). Overall LSI heritability estimates [H = 36.1 (p < 0.0001)] were also greatest for the youngest (H = 51.2) and oldest groups (H = 50.6). Similar findings were found for net increments of occlusal surfaces and deep dentinal lesions SBCPRs (H = 46.4-56.2). These findings are consistent with a significant genetic contribution to dental caries progression and severity in both emerging primary and permanent dentitions.