AIM: To investigate dentinal tubule invasion and the predilection of Enterococcus faecalis for dentinal tubule walls. METHODOLOGY: The invasion of dentinal tubules in extracted human teeth by E. faecalis was measured ex vivo after 8 weeks of incubation. The canal walls of 16 root sections were either intact or instrumented with or without smear layer present. Extent and maximum depth of tubule invasion were assessed histologically and compared between groups. In the adherence study, 44 vertically split root samples were prepared to expose longitudinally aligned dentinal tubules and fractured orthodentine (OD). Surfaces were exposed to E. faecalis (erythromycin resistant strain, JH2-2 carrying plasmid pGh9:ISS1) and incubated aerobically for 2 h. Samples were processed for analysis using scanning electron microscopy. Bacterial adhesion to tubule walls versus fractured OD was calculated as number of cells per 100 microm(2). RESULTS: The strain of E. faecalis used in this study showed moderate to heavy tubule invasion after 8 weeks. In the adhesion studies, significantly more bacteria adhered to fractured OD than to dentinal tubule walls (ANOVA, P < 0.001). With respect to the tubule wall, adherence was greater in inner versus outer dentine (P = 0.02) and greater when bacterial adhesion was tested in chemically defined medium than in phosphate-buffered saline (ANOVA, P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Although E. faecalis readily invaded tubules, it did not adhere preferentially to tubule walls. Initial colonization of dentinal tubules by E. faecalis may depend primarily on other factors.
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