In the 1960s, root canal morphology was looked at differently than today. The common thought was that molars generally had three canals. Today, we know that there are often four, sometimes five canals. Have humans genetically evolved in the past 50 years? No. But new technology, such as cone beam computed tomography (CBCT), reveals minute details of root morphology like never before.
Essentially, CBCT allows us to miss less of what we did in the past by giving us high-resolution, three-dimensional scans of patient anatomy. Focused fields of view mean endodontists can review highly detailed images with up to 75 μm resolution (0.075 mm slices). Plus, when the doctor is able to see the root of the problem, it means a more comprehensive, and therefore successful, treatment plan and often times less post-operative pain for the patient.
Technology has changed dramatically over the past decades to allow us to diagnosis and treat patients in a way never thought possible. My partner recently retired, and in over 50 years, he rarely ever saw a tooth with five canals; whereas, my CBCT system has revealed dozens of cases with five canals. It’s just an amazing example of how CBCT is changing the way endodontists practice. Who knows what revolutionary technology will reveal next?