Detection and management of posterior approximal caries lesions are still problematic. Inspection of approximal surfaces is challenging, and bitewing radiographs are used when direct vision is not possible. Unfortunately, there is no definite radiographic appearance to identify lesion cavitation with absolute certainty. Many lesions detected radiographically within the outer half of dentin are not cavitated, often resulting in unnecessary restorative treatment. Our study compared radiographic depth of approximal caries lesions with presence of cavitation in adults using visual inspection following temporary tooth separation (TTS). We conducted this observational descriptive cross-sectional study at two dental schools in two cities in Chile. Clinicians were unaware of radiographic depths of lesions and examined 147 participants (57.3% female and 42.7% male) following TTS. Using the common classification system that consists of E0 (no lesion), E1 (lesion within the outer half of enamel), E2 (lesion within the inner half of enamel), D1 (lesion within the outer third of dentin), D2 (lesion within the middle third of dentin), and D3 (lesion within the inner third of dentin), a trained dentist evaluated all the processed films. Cavitation was detected in only three sites (0.22%) within the E0 category, seven sites (3.41%) in E1, five sites (14.8%) in E2, four sites (14.8%) in D1, six sites (50%) in D2, and eight sites (61.5%) in D3. Considering that restorative treatment should be indicated strictly for cavitated lesions, our findings support indication for restorative treatment for D3 lesions and the rationale for TTS for D1-D2 caries lesions to allow direct visual inspection to determine whether there is surface cavitation.

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