This study sought to address the influence of a sound versus affected first and/or second deciduous molar on the incidence of visible caries experience in the adjacent permanent first molar. Clinical and questionnaire data were obtained from a 6-year prospective oral health screening project in Flanders, Belgium (Signal-Tandmobiel project), where 4,468 children (born in 1989) were examined annually during their primary school time. A multiple survival model allowing for dependent data with possible censoring was applied. The impact of timing of tooth emergence (determining the period at risk), gender, presence of sealants and reported oral hygiene habits was also considered. Cavity formation in permanent first molars was clearly influenced by the status of the adjacent primary molars;the effect of the second deciduous molar was most pronounced. Moreover, if both deciduous molars experienced caries and the child presented with poor oral hygiene, a peak in cavity formation of the permanent first molar 1-2 years after emergence was noticed. On the other hand, if a child presented with good oral hygiene, no peak was observed; caries risk increased slightly over time. No significant benefit from restoring primary molars could be demonstrated, possibly because of methodological limitations.