European Archives of Paediatric Dentistry

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 281–292 | Cite as

Rationale for restoration of carious primary teeth: A review

  • D. FinucaneEmail author


BACKGROUND: The literature regarding dental and systemic effects of Early Childhood Caries (ECC), consequences of leaving carious primary teeth untreated, benefits of appropriate treatment, and concerns regarding dental treatment of young children and the potential for dental anxiety, is reviewed. ECC has consequences, affecting both the child’s dental health and his/her general health. This paper reviews the literature regarding ECC and its consequences (pain, sepsis, space loss, disruption to quality of life, failure to thrive, effects on intellectual development, greater risk of new carious lesions in both primary and permanent dentitions, higher incidence of hospitalisation and emergency visits, and increased treatment costs and time). The effects of treatment of ECC are also reviewed; and concerns regarding purported associations between treatment of ECC and dental anxiety are addressed. SEARCH METHOD: A Pub Med search was conducted of peer reviewed papers published in the English language in the years 1986–2011, using the search terms: Early Childhood Caries (ECC), Nursing Caries (NC), Consequences and ECC/NC, Treatment and ECC/NC, Treatment outcomes and ECC/NC, Dental anxiety, Dental fears, Onset of dental anxiety/fear, Dental experiences and dental fear/anxiety. More than 300 articles were studied. Reference lists of the selected articles were also studied, and frequently quoted articles were thus also located. Articles with small sample size, poor or poorly described methodology, and unclear or unsupportable conclusions were rejected. A representative sample is presented in this paper, citing the articles with greater levels of evidence, with a description of study methods, where appropriate. CONCLUSION: This review has demonstrated that ECC has implications for both the dental and general health of the affected child. Such problems are potentially serious, even life-threatening. Evidence has been provided of the beneficial effects on dental and general health of dental rehabilitation of children with caries. Causes of dental anxiety are multifactorial, and treatment of ECC does not invariably contribute to dental anxiety, as long as the child’s experience of dentistry is not traumatic. Children with the highest levels of dental disease are primarily from disadvantaged communities. Failure to adequately treat their dental disease may further disadvantage these children. Paediatric Dental Societies, renowned experts in Paediatric Dentistry, and the Medical Protection Society (Dental Protection, Professional Insurance) do not support a policy of leaving carious primary teeth untreated.

Key words

Primary teeth children dental caries restoration 


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© European Academy of Paediatric Dentistry 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dept. of Public and Child Dental HealthDublin Dental School and HospitalDublin 2Ireland
  2. 2.Private practice limited to Paediatric DentistryHermitage Medical ClinicDublinIreland

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