Operative Dentistry - Best Practices
Caries Removal - shallow to moderate carious lesions
(last modified April 23, 2016)
Caries lesion management goals: based upon symptoms, detection, diagnosis, risk assessment and treatment planning
- Prevent lesions rather than heal
- Heal lesions rather than surgically repair
- Minimally invasive surgical treatment of lesions
Minimally Invasive Surgical Approach
- Defect specific lesion access and management
- Final selection of restorative material after removal of defect
Material-specific cavity preparation modifications are then accomplished
- Repair rather than replace restorations with lesions adjacent to margins whenever possible
- Restorations are of last resort and do not make patients “caries free”
Caries lesion removal
- Convenience form access to the caries defect is made just large enough to sufficiently visualize and adequately instrument the carious tooth structure
- The caries lesion is removed first peripherally by excavating peripheral 1 to 1.5 mm tooth structure to sound, hard dentin including a visually stain-free DEJ and healthy enamel. Histological “sound” dentin will have similar hardness and texture to sound unaffected dentin when applying a spoon excavator or slowly rotating round bur.
Moving inward or centrally from this hard peripheral region it is acceptable to leave discolored caries affected/reparative dentin that is firm to a hand excavator.
- Discolored and stained dentin, in itself, does not warrant continued tooth structure removal. Reparative dentin will have a lower hardness and rougher texture as compared to sound unaffected dentin when applying a spoon excavator or slowly rotating round bur.
- The goal of central (axial and pulpal) caries lesion management is to remove infected dentin only and preserve the pulp; however, with currently existing technologies, clinically removing only infected dentin remains a highly subjective procedure. Therefore selective removal of central dentin should stop when firm dentin is reached.
- This best practices document does not address alternative caries removal/management strategies, such as, ultraconservative caries removal, indirect pulp capping, stepwise caries removal, etc.
- Sound dentin has a Knoop hardness of 50 or higher with affected/reparative dentin roughly 25 to 50. This cannot be measured currently in the clinic.