The aim of the present study is to verify which strategy is the most effective in the treatment of dental decay of the deciduous dentition in a moderate to high caries child population under remote field conditions. This study was carried out in the rain forest of Suriname. Three hundred and eighty schoolchildren, mean age 6.1 years (SD 0.5, range 5.1-7.1 years), were randomly assigned to four different groups: full dental treatment, only extractions, only restorations (ART) and no treatment. Parameters for oral health were defined as caries prevalence (dmft), caries increment, sequela to dental caries and dental pain. Restorative dental care of the primary dentition, by means of ART, resulted in a caries increment from a dmft of 5.48 (SD 3.2) at baseline to 6.35 (SD 2.6) after 2 years (p<0.001). Extensive dental treatment, performing only extractions, or no treatment did not render significant changes in the caries prevalence of children (p>0.05). Full dental treatment should be the strategy of choice whenever oral health care programmes are developed. However, when priorities are required due to situational, practical or economical reasons, extraction of severely decayed teeth is an effective treatment strategy.