Restorative Thresholds for Carious Lesions: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

N. P. T. Innes (Lead / Corresponding author), F. Schwendicke

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Current evidence supports noninvasive/nonrestorative treatment of “early” carious lesions: those confined to enamel or reaching the enamel-dentin junction. The extent that dentists’ thresholds for intervening restoratively have changed with this evidence is unknown. This systematic review aimed to determine dentists’ and therapists’ current lesion threshold for carrying our restorative interventions in adults/children and primary/permanent teeth. Embase, Medline via PubMed, and Web of Science were searched for observational studies, without language, time, or quality restrictions. Screening and data extraction were independent and in duplicate. Random-effects meta-analyses with subgroup and meta-regression analysis were performed. Thirty studies, mainly involving dentists, met the inclusion criteria. There was heterogeneity in sampling frames, methods, and scales used to investigate thresholds. The studies spanned 30 y (1983–2014), and sample representativeness and response bias issues were likely to have affected the results. Studies measured what dentists said they would do rather than actually did. Studies represented 17 countries, focusing mainly on adults (n = 17) and permanent
teeth (n = 24). For proximal carious lesions confined to enamel (not reaching the enamel-dentin junction), 21% (95% confidence interval [CI], 15%–28%) of dentists/therapists would intervene invasively. The likelihood of a restorative intervention almost doubled (risk ratio, 1.98; 95% CI, 1.68–2.33) in high caries risk patients. For proximal lesions extending up to the enamel-dentin junction, 47% (95% CI, 39%–55%) of dentists/therapists would intervene restoratively. For occlusal lesions with enamel discoloration/cavitation but no clinical/radiographic dentin involvement, 12% (95% CI, 6%–22%) of dentists/therapists stated they would intervene, increasing to 74% (95% CI,
56%–86%) with dentin involvement. There was variance between countries but no significant temporal trend. A significant proportion of dentists/therapists said they would intervene invasively (restoratively) on carious lesions where evidence and clinical recommendations indicate less invasive therapies should be used. There is great need to understand decisions to intervene restoratively and to find implementation interventions that translate research evidence into clinical practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-508
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Dental Research
Issue number5
Early online date14 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • Caries
  • Operative dentistry
  • Restorative dentistry
  • Minimally invasive dentistry
  • Treatment planning


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