This study aimed at testing how active and inactive enamel caries lesions differ by their degree of resin infiltration, and whether the choice of acid pretreatment plays a crucial role. Four examiners assessed 104 human molars and premolars with noncavitated enamel lesions and classified them as 'active' or 'inactive' using the Nyvad criteria. Forty-five teeth were included in this study after independent unanimous lesion activity assessment. Lesions were cut perpendicularly into 2 halves. Each half lesion was pretreated with either 15% hydrochloric acid or 35% phosphoric acid. The lesions were infiltrated after staining with rhodamine isothiocyanate. Thin sections of 100 µm were prepared and the specimens were bleached with 30% hydrogen peroxide. The specimens were then counterstained with sodium fluorescein, subjected to confocal laser scanning microscopy and analyzed quantitatively. Outcome parameters were maximum and average infiltration depths as well as relative penetration depths and areas. In active lesions no significant difference of percentage maximum penetration depth and percentage average penetration depth between lesions pretreated with hydrochloric or phosphoric acid could be observed. In inactive lesions, however, phosphoric acid pretreatment resulted in significantly lower penetration compared to hydrochloric acid pretreatment. Surface conditioning with hydrochloric acid led to similar infiltration results in active and inactive lesions. Moreover, inactive lesions showed greater variability in all assessed infiltration parameters than did active lesions. In conclusion, caries lesion activity and acid pretreatment both influenced the infiltration. The use of phosphoric acid to increase permeability of the surface layer of active lesions should be further explored.
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