A Century of Change towards Prevention and Minimal Intervention in Cariology

N. P. T. Innes (Lead / Corresponding author), C. H. Chu, M. Fontana, E. C. M. Lo, W. M. Thomson, S. Uribe, M. Heiland, S. Jepsen, F. Schwendicke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)
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Better understanding of dental caries and other oral conditions has guided new strategies to prevent disease and manage its consequences at individual and public health levels. This article discusses advances in prevention and minimal intervention dentistry over the last century by focusing on some milestones within scientific, clinical, and public health arenas, mainly in cariology but also beyond, highlighting current understanding and evidence with future prospects. Dentistry was initially established as a surgical specialty. Dental caries (similar to periodontitis) was considered to be an infectious disease 100 years ago. Its ubiquitous presence and rampant nature-coupled with limited diagnostic tools and therapeutic treatment options-meant that these dental diseases were managed mainly by excising affected tissue. The understanding of the diseases and a change in their prevalence, extent, and severity, with evolutions in operative techniques, technologies, and materials, have enabled a shift from surgical to preventive and minimal intervention dentistry approaches. Future challenges to embrace include continuing the dental profession's move toward a more patient-centered, evidence-based, less invasive management of these diseases, focused on promoting and maintaining oral health in partnership with patients. In parallel, public health needs to continue to, for example, tackle social inequalities in dental health, develop better preventive and management options for existing disease risk groups (e.g., the growing aging population), and the development of reimbursement and health outcome models that facilitate implementation of these evolving strategies. A century ago, almost every treatment involved injections, a drill or scalpel, or a pair of forceps. Today, dentists have more options than ever before available to them. These are supported by evidence, have a minimal intervention focus, and result in better outcomes for patients. The profession's greatest challenge is moving this evidence into practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-617
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Dental Research
Issue number6
Early online date20 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • caries
  • dental care
  • diagnosis
  • evidence based dentistry
  • minimal intervention dentistry
  • public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry


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