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INVITED REVIEW Table of Contents   
Year : 2009  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 3-9
Canal-centering ability: An endodontic challenge

1 Department of Conservative Dentistry and Endodontics, Sri Ramachandra Dental College, Porur, Chennai - 600 116, India
2 Department of Conservative Dentistry and Endodontics, Meenakshi Ammal Dental College, Alapakkam Main Road, Maduravoyal, Chennai - 600 095, India

Click here for correspondence address and email

Date of Submission09-Mar-2009
Date of Acceptance19-Mar-2009
Date of Web Publication10-Jul-2009


During instrumentation of the root canal, it is important to develop a continuously tapered form and to maintain the original shape and position of the apical foramen. However, the presence of curvatures may cause difficulty in root canal instrumentation. The ability to keep the instruments centered is essential to provide a correct enlargement, without excessive weakening of the root structure. Several studies have shown that Ni-Ti instruments remain significantly more centered and demonstrated less canal transportation than stainless steel files. Considerable research has been undertaken to understand the several factors related to an instrument's canal-centering ability. In this article, we have discussed the influence of various parameters such as alloys used in the manufacture of instruments, instrument cross-section, taper, and have given tips on canal-centering ability.

Keywords: Canal-centering ability; cross-section; design; Ni-Ti; stainless steel; taper; tip.

How to cite this article:
Kandaswamy D, Venkateshbabu N, Porkodi I, Pradeep G. Canal-centering ability: An endodontic challenge. J Conserv Dent 2009;12:3-9

How to cite this URL:
Kandaswamy D, Venkateshbabu N, Porkodi I, Pradeep G. Canal-centering ability: An endodontic challenge. J Conserv Dent [serial online] 2009 [cited 2023 Nov 30];12:3-9. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Canal-shaping is a critical aspect of endodontic treatment because it influences the outcome of the subsequent phases of canal irrigation, filling, and the overall success of the treatment itself. Root canal therapy involves the use of instruments and irrigants to shape and chemomechanically prepare the root canal system to receive a three-dimensional filling of the entire root canal space. [1],[2] The goal of instrumentation is to produce a continuously tapered preparation that maintains the canal anatomy, keeping the foramen as small as possible [1],[3] without any deviation from the original canal curvature. [1],[2]

Deviation from the original canal curvature can lead to:

  1. Excessive and inappropriate dentin removal [4]
  2. Straightening of the canal and creation of a ledge in the dentinal wall [5]
  3. A biochemical defect known as an elbow which forms the coronal to the elliptical-shaped apical seal [6]
  4. Canals with hourglass appearance in cross-section that requires stripping [4]
  5. Overpreparation that weakens the tooth, resulting in fracture of the root [4]
Various parameters that affect canal-centering ability:

  1. Alloys used in manufacturing instruments
  2. Instrument design

    1. Cross-section
    2. Taper
    3. Tip
Alloys used in manufacturing instruments:

The most commonly used materials are:

  • Stainless steel
  • Nickel-Titanium alloy
Historically, root canal instrumentation has involved the use of stainless steel hand files. Numerous investigations have shown that the preparation of curved root canals with stainless steel instruments frequently results in undesirable aberrations such as elbows, zips, and danger zones. [7]

Civijan [9] was one of the first investigators to propose a nickel-titanium (Ni-Ti) alloy for its use in endodontics in 1975. In 1988, Walia et al. [10] suggested a greater modification in endodontic instruments-replacing stainless steel with a Ni-Ti alloy. [2] Ni-Ti endodontic instruments were introduced to facilitate instrumentation of curved canals. Ni-Ti instruments are superelastic and could flex far more than stainless steel instruments before exceeding their elastic limits. [10],[11],[12],[13]

If the instruments are not precurved in a curved canal, the amount of stress acting on the instrument to negotiate the curve is more for stainless steel and less for Ni-Ti instruments. The amount of force required or acting on the instrument to bend is the amount of force the instrument will exert and lead to more cutting on the outer curvature of the canal, which results in eccentricity. As Ni-Ti instruments require less stress to bend, they exert less force and being nonaggressive by nature, do not lead to excess cutting on either side. Stainless steel, however, tends tendency to cut more in one wall than the other.

This phenomenon occurs because the bending of the instrument within the canal occurs within its elastic limit, and this tendency to recoil is the cause for eccentricity in cutting. Precurving of stainless steel instruments is done within the plastic phase.

Ni-Ti alloys have been found to be 2-3 times more elastic than similarly manufactured stainless steel files. This property may allow Ni-Ti files to negotiate curved canals with less lateral stress but do not allow the precurving of Ni-Ti files. Whether the physical tendency of Ni-Ti files to remain straight, prevents ideal instrumentation or whether their high flexibility allows a better negotiation of curved canals despite the inability to precurve, still remains questionable. [2]

Parameswaran et al., [14] Al omarii et al., [15] Coleman et al., [16] and Miglani et al. [17] reported transportation, zipping, and straightening of canals using stainless steel instruments. Several studies have confirmed that rotary Ni-Ti files maintain the original canal curvature better than do stainless steel files. [1],[2],[7],[18],[19],[20],[21],[22],[23],[24],[25] The stainless steel files produce a larger extent of movement because of their hardness, which was shown to be 3-4 times harder than Ni-Ti alloys. [17] Carvalho reported that even after precurving and anticurvature filing, a small amount of transportation could be expected from stainless steel instruments. [2]

   Cross - Section Top

A study by Dina Al-Sudani [26] compared the canal-centering ability of a U- shaped instrument (Profile) with other asymmetric cross-section (K3) and convex, triangular cross-section (RaCe) instruments. The results of the study showed that the Profile system produced significantly less transportation and remained centered around the original canal to a greater degree than did other systems. This differential performance could be attributed to the different designs of these instruments. The Profile instrument uses the U-shaped cross section with radial land areas having a negative rake angle that cuts equally over 360 o C with a planing action and is considered to be self-centering. The K3 instrument also has a U-shaped file design but has a positive 45 o C rake angle. As dentin is a resilient material, the K3 instrument's positive rake angle makes it work like a shaver on the dentin surface; thus, maintaining canal-centering will be difficult. Studies done by Short et al. [27] and Versumer et al. [28] compared the canalcentering ability of ProFile & Lightspeed rotary Ni-Ti instruments in mandibular molars with curvatures between 20 and 40 o C. The results showed that both systems had a U-shaped cross-section and produced significantly less transportation and were well centered.

Furthermore, in a study by Miglani et al. [17] that compared the canal-centering ability of ProFile, HERO 642 & SS K files in canal curvatures ranging from 20 to 40 o C, the Profile series instruments showed superior canal-centering ability and performed better than both Hero 642 and SS Kfiles. The trihelical Hedstrom design of the Hero system having a thicker inner core is less flexible and resistant to bending. Hence, it could have caused the Hero 642 to show more transportation than did the triple helical configuration of Profile.

Previous studies by Iqbal et al. [29] compared the apical transportation between the ProFile and ProTaper instruments and showed that the ability of the file to remain centered may not entirely depend on U-file design or the presence of radial lands. The variable taper design of Protaper dampens the screw-in effect. Thus, a simpler convex triangular design, as seen in the case of Protaper, is capable of performing equally well or slightly better than ProFile. A comparative study [30] of six rotary Ni-Ti systems (Flexmaster, System Gt, HERO 642, K3, ProTaper, and Race) in extracted mandibular molars with curvatures up to 70o and embedded in a muffle system, showed that ProTaper instruments created more regular canal diameters.

Conversely, Yoshmine et al. [31] compared the shaping effects of three Ni-ti rotary instruments: ProTaper, K3, & RaCe, in simulated S-shaped canals. They showed that the ProTaper group caused significantly greater widening of canals, especially on the inner sides of the curved region, tending towards straightening of the canal, whereas the K3 and RaCe groups showed no indication of deviation. Schafer et al. [32] have indicated that correlations between the bending properties and cross-sectional surface areas of different Ni-Ti rotary instruments are highly significant. According to their results, the cross-sectional area of 0.04-tapered K3 files was nearly twice the size of the RaCe files with the same tip size and taper, indicating that the former files are less flexible than latter. In conclusion, Ni-ti systems having less cross-sectional area as well as more flexible instruments like K3 and RaCe should be used for canals with more complex curvature.

Musikant et al. compared the shaping ability of conventional reamers and files with a newly introduced, noninterrupted, flat-sided design (EZ-Fill SafeSider) reamer and file system. Conventional files produce the greatest engagement of the instrument with the walls of the canal and consequently, the greatest amount of resistance as they negotiate to the apex. This is not the case for noninterrupted, flat-sided instruments (EZ-FILL safe siders). The flat side reduces the cross-sectional diameter, making it thinner and more flexible, allowing it to negotiate the highly curved canals more easily and have better centering ability. [33]

   Taper Top

Yang et al. studied the shaping ability of progressive vs constant taper instruments in curved root canals with curvatures ranging from 20 to 40 o C . [34] Better compliance was obtained with the original canal shape using the constant taper (Heroshaper). The constant taper produced good centering ability in the apical section compared to instruments with progressive tapers along the cutting surface (ProFile). The final file of the Protaper F3 has an apical taper of 0.09 which is much larger than the Heroshaper which has a 0.04 taper. As the large taper of the F3 instrument increases the stiffness of the tip, the use of larger and greater taper instruments in moderately to severely curved canals should be considered carefully.

Schafer & Vlassis [35] and Paque et al. [36] compared the shaping ability of ProTaper and RaCe in simulated curved canals. Studies showed that both instruments were relatively safe although Race respected the original curvature better than ProTaper. The reason could be attributed to the variable tapers along the cutting surface of ProTaper files. The decreasing taper sequence of the finishing files enhances the strength of the file, but increases the stiffness of their tips. For example, the taper at the tip of ProTaper size 30 is 9%, whereas the taper of a size 20 is only 7%. And it is also due to increased taper of ProTaper shaping files up to 19%,whereas RaCe instruments are available only with tapers of maximum 10%.

   Tip Top
[Table 1] and [Table 2]

Ponce de Leon Del Bello et al. [8] studied the shaping effects of three types of stainless steel files that differ only in tip shape by using curved canals in acrylic blocks. The tip shapes were: (a) pyramidal (Flex-O)with sharp transition angles and a forward-cutting ridge on the face, (b) conical (Mor-Flex) with sharp transition angles and a smooth face, and (c) biconical (Flex-R) with reduced transition angles and dual-guiding faces. The study suggested that during crown-down rotational instrumentation, the original canal curvature is maintained better by biconical file tips. Cutting edges increased shaping to the inside because the canal deflects the instrument's tip through a curvature. This transportation is increased when a file design prevents removal of the outer wall as it progresses through a curved region. Thus, the biconical design generates diameters greater than the file tip at levels that are more coronal than 1 mm. The diameters are consistently less for the biconical design than for the pyramidal and conical designs. Removal of the transition angle and formation of lands allows the canal to reorient the tip through curvatures. As the transition angles are reduced, the file stays centered within the original canal and cuts all sides more evenly. Ponce de Leon Del Bello et al. agree that the instrumentation of curved canals is more successful with "modified" tip instruments, i.e ., biconical-shaped tips.

Veltri et al. [37] compared the shaping abilities of Protaper and GT rotary files to shape curved canals. Dentin removal and mean asymmetry showed no significant differences between the two systems. The canal-centering ability of ProFile, Hero 642, & SS K files was compared using the kuttler cube method in a study done by Miglani et al. [17] Both the Ni-Ti systems showed superior canal-centering ability compared to the SS hand instruments. The standard cutting tip can be too aggressive because the first flute makes the initial cut in canal transportation, whereas the rotary system has a modified noncutting tip. The noncutting tip that guides the blades of the instrument in the canal lumen could be the reason for Ni-Ti systems like the ProFile and Hero 642 remaining more centered than the standard K-files.

Hulsmann et al. [7] compared several parameters of root canal preparation using two different Ni-Ti instruments, the Hero 642 and the Quantec SC systems, with canal curvatures between 20 and 40 o C. They found that Quantec instruments produced more severe straightening probably because they have a rather aggressive, four-faceted cutting tip instead of the noncutting tip seen in the Hero 642 instruments.

Song et al. compared the centering ability for three instrumentation techniques using two Ni-Ti (GT and Nitiflex files) and one SS K-type file in teeth with curvatures between 15 and 45 o C. Results showed that both Ni-Ti instruments had a blunt transition angle in the tip which allowed the instrument to plane the canal walls rather than engaging and screwing into them. This may contribute to the even cutting of dentin along the canal wall and making these instruments self-centered in comparison to the SS K-type files. [38]

   Conclusion Top

From a review of the available literature, we conclude that:

  1. Ni-Ti instruments show better canal-centering ability than stainless steel instruments.
  2. Instruments with less cross-sectional area & taper will show better canal-centering ability.
  3. Instruments with noncutting tips show better canal-centering ability.[59]

   References Top

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57.Schδfer E, Schlingemann R. Efficiency of rotary Ni-Ti K3 instruments compared with stainless steel hand K-Flexofile. Part 2. Cleaning effectiveness and shaping ability in severly curved root canals of extracted teeth. Int Endod J 2003;36:208-17.  Back to cited text no. 57    
58.Perez F, Schoumacher M, Peli JF. Shaping ability of rotary instruments in simulated canals: stainless steel ENDOflash and Ni-Ti HERO shaper. Int Endod J 2005;38:637-44.  Back to cited text no. 58    
59.MiglaniRL. Narayanan,Lakshmi, Rao CV. CT analysis of transportation and centering ratio using three rotary Ni-Ti files in curved root canals-An in vitro study. Endodontology 2008: 18-24.  Back to cited text no. 59    

Correspondence Address:
Nagendrababu Venkateshbabu
Department of Conservative Dentistry and Endodontics, Sri Ramachandra Dental College & Hospital, Sri Ramachadra University, Porur, Chennai - 600 116
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-0707.53334

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  [Table 1], [Table 2]

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11 Shaping Properties and Outcomes of Nickel-Titanium Reciprocation Systems in Primary Teeth: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of In Vitro Studies
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Cureus. 2022;
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12 A comparison of root canal transportation and centering ability between WaveOne® Gold and Protaper Next® files, using microcomputed tomography
Abdulrzag Gajoum, Ebrahim Patel, Ismail E Munshi, Saidah Tootla
South African Dental Journal. 2021; 76(1): 22
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13 An Update on Nickel-Titanium Rotary Instruments in Endodontics: Mechanical Characteristics, Testing and Future Perspective—An Overview
Alessio Zanza, Maurilio D’Angelo, Rodolfo Reda, Gianluca Gambarini, Luca Testarelli, Dario Di Nardo
Bioengineering. 2021; 8(12): 218
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14 Comparison of Volumetric Changes in Primary Molar Root Canals by Four Different File Systems: A Cone-beam Computed Tomography Study
Faizal C Peedikayil, Puzhikkunnath K Nabeeh, Chandru T Premkumar, Soni Kottayi, Dhanesh Narasimhan
Journal of South Asian Association of Pediatric Dentistry. 2021; 4(2): 112
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15 Cone-beam Computed Tomographic Analysis of Canal Transportation and Centering Ability of Three Different Nickel-Titanium Rotary File Systems
Balaji Sopanrao Kapse, Pradnya S. Nagmode, Jayshree Ramkrishna Vishwas, Hrishikesh B. Karpe, Harshal V. Basatwar, Shubham P. Godge
Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences. 2021; 9(D): 30
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16 A micro-computed tomographic assessment of root canal preparation with conventional and different rotary files in primary teeth and young permanent teeth
Gülce Esentürk, Efe Akkas, Evren Cubukcu, Emre Nagas, Ozgur Uyanik, Zafer C. Cehreli
International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry. 2020; 30(2): 202
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17 Comparison of Centering Ability of Three Different Endodontic Instruments Using Cone-beam Computed Tomography: An In Vitro Study
Ramya Shenoy, Suprabha B Srikrishna, Karuna Y Mahabala, Arathi Rao, Vignesh Palanisamy
World Journal of Dentistry. 2019; 10(4): 306
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18 Mechanized Instrumentation of Root Canals Oscillating Systems
Renato de Toledo Leonardo, Carlos Garcia Puente, Alejandro Jaime, Carol Jent
The Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice. 2013; 14(1): 149
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19 Effects of preparation techniques on root canal shaping assessed by micro-computed tomography
Miranda Stavileci,Veton Hoxha,Ömer Görduysus,Ilkan Tatar,Kjell Laperre,Jeroen Hostens,Selen Küçükkaya,Merita Berisha
Medical Science Monitor Basic Research. 2013; 19: 163
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20 Evaluation of the efficacy of rotary vs. hand files in root canal preparation of primary teeth in vitro using CBCT
P. K. Musale,S. A. V. Mujawar
European Archives of Paediatric Dentistry. 2013;
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21 Thermodynamics of an Asymmetric DNA Holliday Junction
Li Li
BIO. 2011; 1(1): 52
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22 Postoperative Pain after Manual and Mechanical Glide Path: A Randomized Clinical Trial
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