Attitudes and expectations of treating deep caries: a PEARL Network survey.
A survey was conducted within a practice-based dental research network to determine dentists' treatment methods for deep caries lesions and whether the dentists' intended treatment approaches were influenced by their expectations for pulpal exposure. The survey further examined how general dentistry practices have adopted scientific evidence of caries classification, excavation, and capping techniques. Dentists were queried regarding liner use, hypersensitivity considerations, point of endodontic therapy, and anticipated vitality outcomes from Class I resin-based composite restorations over three to five years. Of the 93 practitioner-investigators who were in the network at the time of the survey, 85 (92%) completed it. Of those who responded, 62% said that they would remove all caries when presented with a case in which one would expect pulpal exposure, while 18% would partially remove caries and 21% would initiate endodontic treatment; 17% reported that they would utilize an antimicrobial agent before a liner or bonding agent during restoration. The outcomes projected for tooth vitality over the next three to five years were equivalent regardless of the caries removal approach or the use of a liner/bonding agent. When beginning the preparation, the method of treatment did not change if a pulpal exposure was anticipated, other than a threefold increase in immediate endodontic treatment. When dentists were given a direct pulp cap scenario, the projected use of a liner/bonding agent changed little while the vitality projections decreased. Overall survey findings indicate that approximately 20% of network dentists favor partial caries removal techniques and that deep caries treatment outcome studies are warranted, given the various treatments employed.