"Not all can be seen by observing the surface" is a statement that is sometimes equated to icebergs, but is likewise applicable to teeth, since only their surface features are evident to clinical inspection. A large segment of dental practice, namely endodontia. is directly concerned with the "hidden" portion of a tooth. The name, endodontia, implies "inside a tooth", thereby involving the treatment of the pulp cavity and its tissues.
As a prerequisite to the study of endodontic technique, it is imperative that the clinician is familiar with the anatomy and morphology of the pulp cavities of teeth. To properly perform root canal therapy, the clinician must possess accurate knowledge of not only the normal number of root canals, but also normal dimensions, contours, and shapes of the pulp cavities of the entire permanent dentition. Knowledge of the common variations and anomalies of pulp cavity anatomy is likewise essential. To point up the critical need for a working knowledge of pulp cavity morphology, endodontic failures are most often ascribed to improperly instrumented canals, and to undiscovered, and thus uninstrumented, supplementary canals.
This background becomes even more important when it is realized that endodontia involves an area in which direct vision is not possible. The radiograph (x-ray) is extremely useful, but has certain technical limitations. A major drawback focuses on the fact that routine x-rays can only outline pulp cavities in a mesiodistal cross section. In addition, superimposed structures may interfere with the interpretation of pulpal detail.
The relationship of the pulp cavity to endodontia has been emphasized, but it should be pointed out that most of this same knowledge is also necessary to competently practice in other areas of dentistry. For example, in restorative dentistry the clinician must constantly be aware of the location of the pulp when planning and performing treatment.
Therefore, the general objective of this unit is to prepare the student for advanced study in the dental curriculum by providing the necessary background about normal pulpal morphology and some of the common variations.
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