WITHDRAWN: Operative caries management in adults and children

David Ricketts, Thomas Lamont, Nicola Pt Innes, Edwina Kidd, Janet E Clarkson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


Withdrawn from the Cochrane Library in Issue 7, 2019 as out of date. Topic area to be included in a new review of Interventions for treating cavitated or dentine carious lesions.

The editorial group responsible for this previously published document have withdrawn it from publication.

BACKGROUND: The management of dental caries has traditionally involved removal of all soft demineralised dentine before a filling is placed. However, the benefits of complete caries removal have been questioned because of concerns about the possible adverse effects of removing all soft dentine from the tooth. Three groups of studies have also challenged the doctrine of complete caries removal by sealing caries into teeth using three different techniques. The first technique removes caries in stages over two visits some months apart, allowing the dental pulp time to lay down reparative dentine (the stepwise excavation technique). The second removes part of the dentinal caries and seals the residual caries into the tooth permanently (partial caries removal) and the third technique removes no dentinal caries prior to sealing or restoring (no dentinal caries removal). This is an update of a Cochrane review first published in 2006.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the effects of stepwise, partial or no dentinal caries removal compared with complete caries removal for the management of dentinal caries in previously unrestored primary and permanent teeth.

SEARCH METHODS: The following electronic databases were searched: the Cochrane Oral Health Group's Trials Register (to 12 December 2012), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2012, Issue 11), MEDLINE via OVID (1946 to 12 December 2012) and EMBASE via OVID (1980 to 12 December 2012). There were no restrictions regarding language or date of publication.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Parallel group and split-mouth randomised and quasi-randomised controlled trials comparing stepwise, partial or no dentinal caries removal with complete caries removal, in unrestored primary and permanent teeth were included.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Three review authors extracted data independently and in triplicate and assessed risk of bias. Trial authors were contacted where possible for information. We used standard methodological procedures exacted by The Cochrane Collaboration.

MAIN RESULTS: In this updated review, four new trials were included bringing the total to eight trials with 934 participants and 1372 teeth. There were three comparisons: stepwise caries removal compared to complete one stage caries removal (four trials); partial caries removal compared to complete caries removal (three trials) and no dentinal caries removal compared to complete caries removal (two trials). (One three-arm trial compared complete caries removal to both stepwise and partial caries removal.) Four studies investigated primary teeth, three permanent teeth and one included both. All of the trials were assessed at high risk of bias, although the new trials showed evidence of attempts to minimise bias.Stepwise caries removal resulted in a 56% reduction in incidence of pulp exposure (risk ratio (RR) 0.44, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.33 to 0.60, P < 0.00001, I2 = 0%) compared to complete caries removal based on moderate quality evidence, with no heterogeneity. In these four studies, the mean incidence of pulp exposure was 34.7% in the complete caries removal group and 15.4% in the stepwise groups. There was also moderate quality evidence of no difference in the outcome of signs and symptoms of pulp disease (RR 0.78, 95% CI 0.39 to 1.58, P = 0.50, I2 = 0%).Partial caries removal reduced incidence of pulp exposure by 77% compared to complete caries removal (RR 0.23, 95% CI 0.08 to 0.69, P = 0.009, I2 = 0%), also based on moderate quality evidence with no evidence of heterogeneity. In these two studies the mean incidence of pulp exposure was 21.9% in the complete caries removal groups and 5% in the partial caries removal groups. There was insufficient evidence to determine whether or not there was a difference in signs and symptoms of pulp disease (RR 0.27, 95% CI 0.05 to 1.60, P = 0.15, I2 = 0%, low quality evidence), or restoration failure (one study showing no difference and another study showing no failures in either group, very low quality evidence).No dentinal caries removal was compared to complete caries removal in two very different studies. There was some moderate evidence of no difference between these techniques for the outcome of signs and symptoms of pulp disease and reduced risk of restoration failure favouring no dentinal caries removal, from one study, and no instances of pulp disease or restoration failure in either group from a second quasi-randomised study. Meta-analysis of these two studies was not performed due to substantial clinical differences between the studies.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Stepwise and partial excavation reduced the incidence of pulp exposure in symptomless, vital, carious primary as well as permanent teeth. Therefore these techniques show clinical advantage over complete caries removal in the management of dentinal caries. There was no evidence of a difference in signs or symptoms of pulpal disease between stepwise excavation, and complete caries removal, and insufficient evidence to determine whether or not there was a difference in signs and symptoms of pulp disease between partial caries removal and complete caries removal. When partial caries removal was carried out there was also insufficient evidence to determine whether or not there is a difference in risk of restoration failure. The no dentinal caries removal studies investigating permanent teeth had a similar result with no difference in restoration failure. The other no dentinal caries removal study, which investigated primary teeth, showed a statistically significant difference in restoration failure favouring the intervention.Due to the short term follow-up in most of the included studies and the high risk of bias, further high quality, long term clinical trials are still required to assess the most effective intervention. However, it should be noted that in studies of this nature, complete elimination of risk of bias may not necessarily be possible. Future research should also investigate patient centred outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD003808
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number7
Early online date24 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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