Occlusal Caries: Biological Approach for Its Diagnosis and Management

Caries Res. 2016;50(6):527-542. doi: 10.1159/000448662. Epub 2016 Sep 23.


The management of occlusal caries still remains a major challenge for researchers as well as for general practitioners. The present paper reviews and discusses the most up-to-date knowledge and evidence of the biological principles guiding diagnosis, risk assessment, and management of the caries process on occlusal surfaces. In addition, it considers the whole spectrum of the caries process on occlusal surfaces, ranging from the molecular ecology of occlusal biofilms to the management of deep occlusal caries lesions. Studies using molecular methods with focus on biofilms in relation to occlusal caries should explore the relationship between the function and the structural composition of these biofilms to understand the role of occlusal biofilms in caries development. State-of-the-art measures to evaluate risk for occlusal caries lesion activity, caries incidence, and progression should include the assessment of the occlusal biofilm and the stage of tooth eruption. Careful clinical examination of non-cavitated lesions, including assessment of the lesion activity status, remains the major tool to determine the immediate treatment need and to follow on the non-operative treatment outcome. Even medium occlusal caries lesions in the permanent dentition may be treated by non-invasive fissure sealing. By extending the criteria for non-invasive treatments, traditional restoration of occlusal surfaces can be postponed or even avoided, and the dental health in children and adolescents can be improved. Selective removal (incomplete) to soft dentin in deep carious lesions has greater success rates than stepwise excavation. Selective (complete) removal to firm dentin has a lower success rate due to increased pulp exposure.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biofilms*
  • Dental Caries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Dental Caries / microbiology
  • Dental Caries / pathology
  • Dental Caries / therapy*
  • Dental Occlusion*
  • Dental Plaque / diagnostic imaging*
  • Dental Plaque / microbiology
  • Dental Pulp / microbiology
  • Dentition, Permanent
  • Denture, Partial, Removable
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Pit and Fissure Sealants / therapeutic use
  • Risk Factors
  • Tooth Eruption


  • Pit and Fissure Sealants