Is it better to leave or restore carious deciduous molar teeth? A preliminary study

Prim Dent Care. 1999 Oct;6(4):127-31.


Introduction: The objective of this study was to compare the extraction and exfoliation experience of filled and unfilled carious deciduous molar teeth.

Method: The study was carried out in 1997 in four general dental practices in south Cheshire, UK and involved a longitudinal retrospective review of case notes. A quota sample of 20 case notes of children from each practice was selected according to strict criteria. Subjects had to: Have had experience of approximal caries in one or more of the deciduous molar teeth. Have a date of birth between 1st January 1984 and 31st December 1985. Be a regular attender and in continuous contact with the practice. Data were collected on a common data abstraction form. Variables measured included: Base-line dmft. Site and number of filled teeth. Site and number of unfilled carious teeth. Number of courses of antibiotics. Site and number of pulp therapies. Site, number, method (local or general anaesthetic) of extractions. Reasons for extraction. All teeth not recorded as being extracted were assumed to have exfoliated. In addition, information was collected on the dentists' treatment philosophies. A series of group discussions revealed that the four dentists fitted into two groups according to treatment philosophies; two dentists shared a philosophy of minimal intervention, the other two shared the same views of treating more radically.

Results: There was no significant difference between the proportion of filled teeth and the proportion of carious unfilled teeth that were extracted (chi-square 0.05 P = 0.83). A logistic regression showed that for each course of antibiotics administered the odds of having an extraction was multiplied by 5.5 and children who were patients of the interventionist dentists were five times more likely to have an extraction than patients of non-interventionist dentists.

Conclusion: Although the study was preliminary in nature no clear benefit could be found in filling deciduous molar teeth against leaving carious teeth unfilled, if avoidance of extraction was the desired outcome. The treatment philosophy of dentists was a major factor in determining extraction or exfoliation outcomes. This issue is complex with many interacting factors to be accounted for and will require multiple well-designed studies to provide an answer.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child, Preschool
  • DMF Index
  • Dental Care for Children / methods*
  • Dental Caries / therapy*
  • Dental Restoration, Permanent / statistics & numerical data*
  • England
  • General Practice, Dental / methods
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Molar
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pilot Projects
  • Practice Patterns, Dentists' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tooth Exfoliation
  • Tooth Extraction / statistics & numerical data
  • Tooth, Deciduous*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents