This study compared step-back preparations in curved canals of resin blocks using nickel-titanium K-files and stainless steel K-files. Forty canals in resin blocks were cross-sectioned at 3 levels: 1 to 2 mm from the apical foramen, middle of the curve, and coronal. Direct digital computer images were recorded before and after instrumentation. Superimposition of the images combined with digital subtraction computer software allowed direct measurement of area instrumented, distance of transportation, and shape analysis. Time for instrumentation was recorded. Results showed Ni-Ti files to cause significantly less transportation and remain more centered at the apical level (p < 0.05). Area removed by instrumentation was significantly greater for stainless steel files at the middle level (p < 0.05). Cross-sectional shape of the instrumented canal was not significantly different (p < 0.05). It took significantly longer to prepare a canal with Ni-Ti K-files in resin blocks compared to stainless steel (p < 0.05). Resin simulated canals showed similar results compared to canals in extracted roots using an identical methodology.
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