When patients present with cavities causing pain, poor aesthetics and/or functional problems restorations will need to be placed. Minimally invasive caries excavation strategies can be deployed depending on the patient’s caries risk, lesion-pulp proximity and vitality, the extent of remaining supra-gingival tooth structure and clinical factors (for example, moisture control, access). Excavation instruments, including burs/handpieces, hand excavators, chemo-mechanical agents and/ or air-abrasives limiting caries removal selectively to the more superficial caries-infected dentine and partial removal of caries-affected dentine when required, help create smaller cavities with healthy enamel/dentine margins. Using adhesive restorative materials the operator can, if handling with care, optimise the histological substrate coupled with the applied chemistry of the material so helping to form a durable peripheral seal and bond to aid retention of the restoration as well as arresting the carious process within the remaining tooth structure. Achieving a smooth tooth-restoration interface clinically to aid the cooperative, motivated patient in biofilm removal is an essential pre-requisite to prevent further secondary caries.

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Minimally invasive operative caries management: rationale and techniques