It’s time to move from drill and fill to preventing tooth decay, announced a Sydney University team of researchers.
When tooth decay is observed the conventional approach employed by dentists worldwide is to drill any incipient caries and fill the tooth. Not only does the procedure spark anxiety and even phobia with a lot of patients, but it is also detrimental on the long-term, increasing the number of these procedures as time passes.
The new study, covering seven years of research explains that in fact, tooth decay occurs at such a slow pace in the majority of cases that preventive measures can reverse and even stop the process. Overall, the study study showed that even for high-risk patients a preventive approach to tooth decay reduced the need for the drill and fill approach by 80 percent.
The participants recruited for the Sydney University study were split in two groups. One group received conventional treatments as soon as tooth decay was noticed, including the dreaded drill and fill approach. The second group was assigned to the Caries Management System program.
The Caries Management System (CMS) implies a preventive approach to tooth decay. This includes a higher responsibility as far as the patient is concerned. Nonetheless, it’s all for the best. If avoiding drilling can’t convince patients to regularly brush teeth, use fluoride and lower sugary products intake (a minor diet change yielding beneficial results), nothing can. Through the use of the Caries Management System, tooth decay can be stopped and even reversed. It is only when a cavity becomes visible and reaches the inside of a tooth that the drill and fill is necessary.
Doctor Wendell Evans, associate professor with the Sydney University explained that it takes four to eight years before tooth decay reaches the inner layer of a tooth. While tooth decay is only noticed on the outer layer of the tooth or the enamel, the time window is sufficient to offer alternative preventive treatment to a patient.
19 patients assigned to one or the other groups followed their respective treatment for three years. Follow-up studies were conducted two and four years after the clinical trial. For the patients in the Caries Management System program, tooth decay was reduced by 30 to 50 percent.
The CMS program included four techniques. First, dentists treated the affected teeth with fluoride varnish. The participants were then taught how to brush their teeth in addition to being instructed to avoid sugar-laden products, including sugary drinks. In the end, all patients had to follow regular monitoring schedules to avoid further tooth decay and assess the results. Overall, the researchers concluded that it’s time to move from drill and fill to preventing tooth decay.
The findings of the study can be accessed in the Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology journal.
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