We evaluated the effect of calcium hydroxide cement (CHC) and glass ionomer cement (GIC) on carious dentin and bacterial infections after partial caries removal and sealing. Sixty permanent teeth with deep lesions underwent partial caries removal, the application of CHC, GIC or wax, i.e. negative control (NC), and were then sealed for 3–4 months. After the partial caries removal and the sealing period, the dentin was clinically assessed (colour and consistency) and analysed by scanning electron microscopy to assess dentin organization and bacterial infections. The effect of the treatment in each group was assessed by the Wilcoxon and χ2 tests, differences among groups by the Kruskal-Wallis test and the correlations between variables by Spearman correlation. No clinical symptoms or radiographic signals of pulpits or pulp necrosis were observed during the study. Dentin darkening was observed after the sealing period in the CHC and NC groups (p < 0.05). However, there was no difference in the colour after treatment among the 3 groups (p > 0.05). Dentin hardening occurred in all groups after treatment (p < 0.05), also with no differences (p > 0.05). Dentin samples showed better organization after the sealing period than after partial caries removal, with total or partial obliteration of dentinal tubules (CHC p < 0.03, GIC p < 0.05, NC p < 0.01) and a reduction of bacterial infections (CHC p < 0.03, GIC p < 0.05, NC p < 0.03). No differences were observed. Correlations between the different criteria, except for colour and bacterial infection, were detected in all cases. Partial caries removal and sealing resulted in dentin hardening, decreased bacterial numbers and dentin reorganization, irrespective of the dentin protection used.
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