Alternative Caries Management Options for Primary Molars: 2.5-Year Outcomes of a Randomised Clinical Trial

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Less invasive caries management techniques for treating cavitated carious primary teeth, which involve the concept of caries control by managing the activity of the biofilm, are becoming common. This study aimed to compare the clinical efficacy (minor/major failures) and survival rates (successful cases without any failures) of 3 carious lesion treatment approaches, the Hall Technique (HT), non-restorative caries treatment (NRCT), and conventional restorations (CR), for the management of occlusoproximal caries lesions (ICDAS 3-5) in primary molars. Results at 2.5 years are presented. A total of 169 children (3- to 8-year-olds) were enrolled in this secondary care-based, 3-arm parallel-group, randomised controlled trial. Participants were allocated to: HT (n = 52; sealing caries with stainless-steel crowns without caries removal), NRCT (n = 52; opening up the cavity and applying fluoride varnish), CR (n = 65; control arm, complete caries removal and compomer restoration). Statistical analyses were: non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis analysis of variance, Mann-Whitney U test and Kaplan-Meier survival analyses. One hundred and forty-two participants (84%; HT = 40/52; NRCT = 44/52; CR = 58/65) had follow-up data of 1-33 months (mean = 26). Overall, 25 (HT = 2, NRCT = 9, CR = 14) of 142 participants (17.6%) presented with at least 1 minor failure (reversible pulpitis, caries progression, or secondary caries; p = 0.013, CI = 0.012-0.018; Mann-Whitney U test). Ten (HT = 1, NRCT = 4, CR = 5) of 142 participants (7.04%) experienced at least 1 major failure (irreversible pulpitis, abscess, unrestorable tooth; p = 0.043, CI = 0.034-0.045). Independent comparisons between 2 samples found that NRCT-CR had no statistically significant difference in failures (p > 0.05), but for CR-HT (p = 0.037, CI = 0.030-0.040) and for NRCT-HT (p = 0.011, CI = 0.010-0.016; Kruskal-Wallis test) significant differences were observed. Cumulative survival rates were HT = 92.5%, NRCT = 70.5%, and CR = 67.2% (p = 0.012). NRCT and CR outcomes were comparable. HT performed better than NRCT and CR for all outcomes. This study was funded by the Paediatric Dentistry Department, Greifswald University, Germany (Trial registration No. NCT01797458).

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