Data sourcesCochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care (EPOC) Group's Specialised Register; Cochrane Oral Health Group's Specialised Register; the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials Medline; Embase; CINAHL; Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews; Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effectiveness; five other databases and two trial registries. A number of dental journals were hand-searched and a grey literature search preformed.Study selectionRandomised controlled trials (RCTs), non-randomised controlled trials (NRCTs), controlled before and after studies (CBAs) and interrupted time series (ITSs) were considered. Selection was conducted independently by two reviewers.Data extraction and synthesisThree reviewers extracted data and assessed risk of bias. Meta-analysis was not possible so a narrative summary was presented.ResultsFive studies (one cluster RCT, three RCTs and one NRCT) were included. All the studies were at high risk of bias and the overall quality of evidence was very low. The majority of the studies were more than 20 years old.Four studies evaluated sealant placement; three found no evidence of a difference in retention rates of those placed by dental auxiliaries and dentists over a range of follow-up periods (six to 24 months). One study found that sealants placed by a dental auxiliary had lower retention rates than ones placed by a dentist after 48 months (9.0% with auxiliary versus 29.1% with dentist); but the net reduction in the number of teeth exhibiting caries was lower for teeth treated by the dental auxiliary than the dentist (three with auxiliary versus 60 with dentist, P value < 0.001). One study showed no evidence of a difference in dental decay after treatment with fissure sealants between groups. One study comparing the effectiveness of dental auxiliaries and dentists performing ART reported no difference in survival rates of the restorations (fillings) after 12 months.
Conclusions We only identified five studies for inclusion in this review, all of which were at high risk of bias, and four were published more than 20 years ago, highlighting the paucity of high-quality evaluations of the relative effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and safety of dental auxiliaries compared with dentists in performing clinical tasks. No firm conclusions could be drawn from the present review about the relative effectiveness of dental auxiliaries and dentists.