Atraumatic restorative treatment, also known as ART, is a dental practice that has been in place for a number of years. It is used to restore certain cavities that are occlusal in nature. Developed through research in Thailand and Zimbabwe, the encouraging benefits of this procedure have been adopted around the world, especially when dental facilities are few and far between. There are some key pros and cons to consider when looking at this particular treatment option.
What Are the Pros of ART?
1. It is incredibly affordable.
The standard of treatment for dental health in treatment is typically amalgam-based cavity repair. Unfortunately in areas like the Caribbean or Central America, the costs are too much for families to bear. The ART treatment helps to remove the bacteria that is causing the cavity and create a filling that is strong enough to stand up to the wear and tear of every day life.
2. No specific dental tools are needed for this type of filling.
As long as the cavity powders are available, which are based on a glass ionomer, then all the dental provider needs is a way to hand mix the substance to create a viable cavity filler. The cavity itself, once filled, can even be put into place with a gloved finger and held there until it dries properly.
3. It is a minimally invasive procedure.
Instead of the typical drilling out of a cavity to remove bacteria or possible infection, ART calls for the tooth tissues to be cleansed in preparation for the filling. This biological approach is minimally invasive, causes less pain, and is ultimately less traumatic to the tooth that is being repaired as well. Many people report not feeling any pain at all with this procedures.
4. Virtually anyone can perform atraumatic restorative treatments.
The ART technique is simple enough that anyone can be taught how to fill cavities. This allows for a better standard of care where dentists may not be located. It also helps to remove the fear and stigma that typically come with a visit to the dentist that may drive future dental care costs higher because of a lack of early intervention. It is particularly useful in small children or those with developmental disabilities that may not be able to sit long enough for a traditional cavity fill.
What Are the Cons of ART?
1. It is an alternative treatment to the gold standard.
Although ART is useful in areas where dental care may be difficult or lacking, it isn’t an alternative to the standard method of restoring cavities with modern supplies and techniques. It may improve oral health and be a long-lasting alternative, but over time these filling typically need to be replaced. When they do come out, extensive dental care may be required to fix that future situation.
2. It only works with small cavities that are accessible by hand.
ART may only require hand tools, but that is also a disadvantage because it means some cavities will remain inaccessible for repair. It is a useful technique for small cavities as well, which means those who need more extensive dental work will still need to pay the higher costs of care. If caught early, it can be a beneficial technique, but in the developing world, not everyone comes into be seen for a small cavity.
3. It can’t be used when there are inflammation issues with the pulp.
For those who have had a painful tooth for some time or the pulp of the tooth has been exposed, ART is not a beneficial treatment solution. It cannot be used when there is swelling or pulp exposure because of the content of the filling that is being set. The materials stick to the tooth and so any shifting swelling, or retraction can change the viability of the filling.
4. The cavity may be positioned in a difficult location.
If the cavity cannot be repaired from the occlusal direction, then the ART method of dental care is not generally beneficial. Even if there are clear signs of a small cavity that would benefit from this treatment method, its location can preclude it from receiving that treatment.
The pros and cons of atraumatic restorative treatment prove that this cost-effective method of filling cavities is useful. It is particularly beneficial in communities where dental care may not be available. Cost-effective and dependable, it may be the most innovative way to improve dental care for the developing world in more than a generation.