Conventional fillings may not be the best way of tackling decay in children’s teeth, research suggests. Picture: keesler.af.mil

London - Conventional fillings may not be the best way of tackling decay in children’s teeth, research suggests.

A three-year study found no evidence to suggest fillings are more effective at stopping pain and infection in milk teeth than other prevention techniques.

These included sealing the decay into the tooth, or getting the child to cut down on their sugar consumption. For the study, conducted by a number of universities, 1 140 children aged between three and seven with visible tooth decay were recruited by dentists working in one of 72 dental clinics throughout the country.

One of three treatments was then randomly selected for each child’s dental care for the duration of the trial – up to three years.

The first approach avoided using fillings and aimed to prevent decay by reducing sugar intake and ensuring the child brushed their teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste and placing fissure sealants on the first permanent back teeth.

The second involved drilling out tooth decay and filling the tooth in, and the third involved decay being sealed in to the tooth under a metal crown to stop it progressing.

The findings, published in the Journal of Dental Research, found none of the treatments came out top in terms of making a difference to children’s experience of pain or infection, quality of life or dental anxiety. All three treatments were found to be acceptable to children, parents and dental professionals.

Just under half the children studied – 450 – experienced pain and further tooth decay, regardless of the treatment they received.

Professor Nicola Innes, chairwoman of paediatric dentistry at the University of Dundee and lead study author said: "What is absolutely clear from our trial is that the best way to manage tooth decay is not by drilling it out or sealing it in – it’s by preventing it in the first place."

Daily Mail