Apical surgery on the separate distolingual (DL) root of a 3-rooted mandibular first molar is thought to be difficult because DL roots are always severely curved, small, and shorter than distobuccal (DB) roots, and they are located far from the buccal cortical bone. The purpose of this study was to use cone-beam computed tomographic images to investigate the apical surgery-related morphological characteristics of DL roots in a Chinese population.
The screening process identified 83 subjects with 128 mandibular first molars with separate DL roots. The degree of root canal curvature was measured in the mesiodistal (MD) and buccolingual (BL) planes using the Schneider method. Distances were measured from the DL root apex to the buccal cortical bone, to the buccal cortical bone opposite the DB root apex, and to the buccal cortical bone opposite the mesiobuccal (MB) root apex. The lengths of the remaining DB, MB, and DL roots were measured after resection of 3 mm of the DL apical root. Angulations of the DL root canal were determined before and after DL apical root resection.
The teeth were classified into 3 types: type I, straight in the MD and BL planes; type II, straight in the MD plane and curved in the BL plane; and type III, curved in the MD and BL planes. Only 5 molars (3.9%) were classified as type I, whereas 52 (40.6%) molars were type II and 71 (55.5%) molars were type III. The type I DL root has a significantly shorter length and longer distance from the DL root apex to the buccal cortical bone than type II and III roots (P < .05). The distance from the DL root apex to the buccal cortical bone opposite the MB root apex is significantly longer than the distance to the buccal cortical bone opposite the DB root apex in types I and II (P < .05), whereas the distance is nearly equal for type III. The angulations for root-end preparation of types II and III DL roots vary from 57.5° to 129.1° and from 55.8° to 128.1°, respectively.
A new classification was proposed for DL roots in 3-rooted mandibular first molars based on the root canal curvature. Type I is unsuitable for apical surgery. Access to the type II DL root apex should be through the DB root apex, whereas access to the type III DL root apex through the MB root apex is more feasible. Apical surgery on types II and III DL roots may be accomplished when the depth of the root-end preparation is reasonably reduced, and fine and personalized angulated ultrasonic retro tips are used.