The present study was aimed at comparing the effectiveness of three minimally invasive restorative treatment approaches for dentinal lesions in occlusal surfaces. The approaches tested comprised a conventional and a modified–conventional treatment and a modified Atraumatic Restorative Treatment (ART). The conventional approach was performed in a university dental clinic whilst the modified–conventional, employing portable equipment, and the modified ART, using hand instruments and a caries removal solution (Caridex®), were carried out in the field. Using the split–mouth design, 430 matched contralateral pairs of occlusal cavities were restored with amalgam or glass–ionomers in permanent molars of 152 school children by one dental therapist. The restorations were assessed using a modified USPHS–Ryge criteria. After 2 years, the cumulative survival percentages for occlusal amalgam and glass–ionomer restorations were 92 and 96%, respectively. The survival of all restorations in the conventional, modified–conventional and the modified ART group was 96, 96 and 91%, respectively. The survival of occlusal amalgam and glass–ionomer restorations per treatment group was as follows: 94 and 99%, respectively (conventional group); 95 and 97%, respectively (modified–conventional group), and 89 and 93%, respectively (modified ART group). The differences in survival percentage between restorations with amalgam and glass–ionomer, and between the three restorative treatment approaches were not statistically significant. In countries facing scarcity in resources for dental care, ART seems a promising restorative approach to occlusal caries in posterior teeth. However, a longer clinical observation period is required to substantiate this initial conclusion.

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