Minimum intervention dentistry approach to managing early childhood caries: a randomized control trial

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A pragmatic randomized control trial was undertaken to compare the minimum intervention dentistry (MID) approach, based on the atraumatic restorative treatment procedures (MID–ART: Test), against the standard care approach (Control) to treat early childhood caries in a primary care setting.


Consenting parent/child dyads were allocated to the Test or Control group using stratified block randomization. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied. Participants were examined at baseline and at follow-up by two calibrated examiners blind to group allocation status (κ = 0.77), and parents completed a questionnaire at baseline and follow-up. Dental therapists trained in MID–ART provided treatment to the Test group and dentists treated the Control group using standard approaches. The primary outcome of interest was the number of children who were referred for specialist pediatric care. Secondary outcomes were the number of teeth treated, changes in child oral health-related quality of life and dental anxiety and parental perceptions of care received. Data were analyzed on an intention to treat basis; risk ratio for referral for specialist care, test of proportions, Wilcoxon rank test and logistic regression were used.


Three hundred and seventy parents/carers were initially screened; 273 children were examined at baseline and 254 were randomized (Test = 127; Control = 127): mean age = 3.8 years, SD 0.90; 59% male, mean dmft = 4.9, SD 4.0. There was no statistically significant difference in age, sex, baseline caries experience or child oral health-related quality of life between the Test and Control group. At follow-up (mean interval 11.4 months, SD 3.1 months), 220 children were examined: Test = 115, Control = 105. Case-notes review of 231 children showed Test = 6 (5%) and Control = 53 (49%) were referred for specialist care, P < 0.0001. More teeth were filled in the Test group (mean = 2.93, SD 2.48) than in the Control group (mean = 1.54, SD 2.20), Wilcoxon's test, P < 0.0001. Logistic regression, after controlling for age and baseline caries experience, showed a higher risk of referral by allocation to control group, OR 32.6, 95% CI 10.8–98.4, P < 0.0001.


The MID–ART approach reduced significantly the likelihood of referral for specialist care, and more children and teeth were provided with treatment.

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