Extension for prevention: Is it relevant today?

John W. Osborne, James B. Summitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Extension for prevention has been an integral part of dentistry for over 100 years. Because this concept advocated the removal of sound tooth structure, it was not totally accepted at the turn of the century. The advent of the gold casting catapulted extension for prevention into general acceptance. In 1883, Webb presented a concept of "prevention of extension of decay". This concept advocated a proximal cavity preparation extending toward the buccal and lingual aspects of the tooth so that contact with adjacent teeth would not be at the margins. The separation of the margins, along with proper restoration contours, was thought to promote natural cleansing of the embrasures with saliva and fluids in the diet. GV Black's 1891 idea of "extension for prevention" was to provide extension of the preparation to the facial and lingual line angles in order to bring about "self-cleansing" margins via food excursion. Black's concept also included extending preparations through fissures to allow cavosurface margins to be on non-fissured enamel. Black integrated the extension of the proximal margins with his concept of an occlusal isthmus for a Class II amalgam preparation one-third the faciolingual width of the occlusal surface. Challenges to this concept of extension for prevention were immediate, and, by the 1950's, narrower, more conservative preparations were seen by a few as being more effective in preserving teeth. Not only occlusal width was reassessed, but the need to routinely extend proximal margins to the buccal and lingual line angles was also questioned. By the mid-1960's and early 1970's a more conservative approach to amalgam preparation was advocated and was being taught in some dental schools. Today, a standardized outline form should not be used or taught as a principle of cavity preparation. In areas where fissure caries has necessitated a preparation extending into dentin, a composite resin or dental amalgam restoration should be placed, and a fissure sealant should be used to protect remaining susceptible fissures from carious attack. This current form of the concept of extension for prevention, which is supported by clinical research, preserves sound tooth structure that, using outdated concepts, would have been cut away. Placing proximal margins in sound tooth structure that just clears an adjacent tooth is also strongly advocated. Sound enamel margins in certain areas may occasionally be left in contact with adjacent teeth for amalgam preparations. For Class II preparations for composite resin, facial or lingual proximal bevels will usually suffice to separate the margins from the adjacent tooth to allow finishing and polishing at the margins. Preventing unnecessary extension and allowing sounder tooth structure to remain is one important aspect of helping patients to maintain their teeth for their lifetimes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-196
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of dentistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)


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