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Keywords:

  • caries control;
  • elderly persons;
  • root caries activity

Objectives:  (i) Initially, to devise and examine the validity of a system for determining lesion activity on root surfaces, and (ii) compare the effectiveness of two preventive programmes in controlling root caries in elderly people using the devised system.

Materials and methods:  (i) Four clinical variables: texture, contour, location and colour of root caries lesions were selected to evaluate lesion activity. The intraexaminer reproducibility of the scoring system was assessed on 28 elderly patients. The accuracy was assessed on 10 of these persons using an impression material (Clinpro, 3M ESPE). (ii) Of total, 215 homebound 75+ year olds were randomly assigned to one of three groups: group 1, once a month a dental hygienist brushed the teeth of the participants and applied Duraphat vanish to active root caries lesions. The participants in groups 2 and 3 received 5000 and 1450 ppm F-toothpaste, respectively, to use twice a day. This study included an interview, a baseline examination and a final follow-up examination after 8 months.

Results:  (i) Intraexaminer reproducibility of the root caries scoring system was 0.86 (Kappa). The sensitivity and specificity was 0.86 and 0.81. (ii) Data from those 189 (88%) who completed the study disclosed that there were no inter-group differences at the baseline examination concerning relevant conditions. At the end of the study, the root caries status of participants in groups 1 and 2 had improved significantly when compared with group 3 (p < 0.02). No significant difference was observed between groups 1 and 2 (p = 0.14).

Conclusion:  The data suggest that the root caries scoring system is reliable. Both the intervention programmes controlled root caries development; the hygienist in eight of 10 persons, the 5000 ppm F-toothpaste in seven of 10. In contrast, five of 10 participants who only brushed with 1450 ppm F-toothpaste had root caries progression.