The ability of four instrumentation techniques to enlarge and maintain the central axis of 51 curved canals was evaluated radiographically. Curved canals in extracted human teeth were instrumented using a step-back preparation with K-files, crowndown preparation with K-files, sonic instrumentation with Shaper-Sonic files, and the NiTiMatic preparation system. Following coronal preflaring, each canal was instrumented to a #35 file 1 mm from the anatomic foramen. Radiographs were taken with mercury filling the canal system using a specially designed model that allowed for the pre- and postinstrumentation canal to be viewed on the same radiograph. Canal enlargement and apical transportation resulting from the various instrumentation techniques were evaluated using computer analysis. No statistically significant differences were found for canal transportation. Sonic instrumentation significantly increased coronal flaring. The crown-down and sonic techniques produced more ledges. Elbow formation was associated with all instrumentation techniques. The model system developed for this study provided an accurate method of assessing the preparation techniques and the instrument effects on the canal walls.
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