The shortened dental arch revisited: from evidence to recommendations by the use of the GRADE approach

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SUMMARYClinicians must frequently decide whether or not to treat patients with loss of posterior teeth, a condition called the shortened dental arch (SDA). Although many studies have been reported, there are no clear recommendations for the management of SDA cases. In this work, therefore, an innovative system, the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach, was used to grade the evidence and strength of recommendations for clinical intervention. An extensive literature search for longitudinal studies was conducted on 17 November 2010 in the PubMed and LILACS electronic databases using the termshortened dental arch. A ‘snowballing’ strategy, for example, manual searching of the reference lists of included papers, was also conducted. Unpublished and published studies were sought in and in the search engine ‘Google’ (Scholar) in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. Finally, grey literature was searched in OpenSIGLE (System for Information on Grey Literature in Europe). Titles and abstracts of 133 articles were initially assessed. Nine studies were finally included. Although there was no difference between the effectiveness of restorative and non-restorative approaches for SDA, fixed partial dentures seem better than removable prostheses. The overall body of evidence was, however, graded as low quality. Two different clinical scenarios are used to illustrate recommendations in the management of SDA cases by the use of the GRADE system. The GRADE approach may improve transparency in a shared decision-making process, mainly under conditions in which the quality of evidence is low or unclear.

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