Recently methods of caries quantification in the primary dentition have moved away from summary 'whole mouth' measures at the individual level to methods based on generalised linear modelling (GLM) approaches or survival analysis approaches. However, GLM approaches based on logistic transformation fail to take into account the time-dependent process of tooth/surface survival to caries. There may also be practical difficulties associated with casting parametric survival-based approaches in a complex multilevel hierarchy and the selection of an optimal survival distribution, while non-parametric survival methods are not generally suitable for the assessment of supplementary information recorded on study participants. In the current investigation, a hybrid semi-parametric approach comprising elements of survival-based and GLM methodologies suitable for modelling of caries occurrence within fixed time periods is assessed, using an illustrative multilevel data set of caries occurrence in primary molars from a cohort study, with clustering of data assumed to occur at surface and tooth levels. Inferences of parameter significance were found to be consistent with previous parametric survival-based analyses of the same data set, with gender, socio-economic status, fluoridation status, tooth location, surface type and fluoridation status-surface type interaction significantly associated with caries occurrence. The appropriateness of the hierarchical structure facilitated by the hybrid approach was also confirmed. Hence the hybrid approach is proposed as a more appropriate alternative to primary caries modelling than non-parametric survival methods or other GLM-based models, and as a practical alternative to more rigorous survival-based methods unlikely to be fully accessible to most researchers.