The term "Minimal Invasive (MI) Dentistry" can best be defined as the management of caries with a biological approach, rather than with a traditional (surgical) operative dentistry approach. Where operative dentistry is required, this is now carried out in the most conservative manner with minimal destruction of tooth structure. This new approach to caries management changes the emphasis from diagnosing carious lesions as cavities (and a repeating cycle of restorations), to one of diagnosing the oral ecological imbalance and effecting biological changes in the biofilm. The goal of MI is to stop the disease process and then to restore lost tooth structure and function, maximizing the healing potential of the tooth. The thought process which underpins this new minimal invasive approach can be organized into three main categories: (1) Recognize, which means identify patient caries risk, (2) Remineralize, which means prevent caries and reverse non-cavitated caries, and (3) Repair, which means control caries activity, maximize healing and repair the damage. The disease of dental caries is not just demineralization, but a process of repeated demineralization cycles caused by an imbalance in the ecological and chemical equilibrium of the biofilm /tooth interface (the ecological plaque hypothesis). Dietary and lifestyle patterns, especially carbohydrate frequency, water intake and smoking, play an important role in changing the biofilm ecology and pathogenicity. Tools for chairside assessment of saliva and plaque, allow risk to be assessed and patient compliance monitored. The remineralizing properties of saliva can be enhanced using materials which release biologically available calcium, phosphate and fluoride ions (CPP-ACP and CPP-ACFP). Use of biocides can also alter the pathogenic properties of plaque. Use of these MI treatment protocols, can repair early lesions and improve patient understanding and compliance. This review article introduces some of the key concepts and practical aspects of minimally invasive dentistry.
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