Morphometric analysis of the furcation anatomy of mandibular molars

J Periodontol. 2004 Jun;75(6):824-9. doi: 10.1902/jop.2004.75.6.824.


Background: Successful treatment of molar furcation defects remains a challenge in clinical practice. Knowledge of anatomic factors facilitates predictable management of furcation involvement lesions. The degree of success in managing furcation involvement is inversely related to the horizontal probing depth. The depth of the horizontal component of attachment loss can vary depending on the external tooth-surface reference points used. However, the anatomical factors affecting horizontal component of attachment loss have not been previously assessed. Therefore, this study determined the bucco-lingual measurements of the cemento-enamel junction and the mesial and distal roots and at the level of root separation.

Methods: One hundred extracted permanent human mandibular first (N = 50) and second (N = 50) molars were studied. Four horizontal bucco-lingual widths were measured with calibrated calipers: 1) furcation entrance/roof (FE); 2) cemento-enamel junction level (CEJ); 3) mesial root width (MRW); and 4) distal root width (DRW).

Results: The mean widths at FE, CEJ, MRW, and DRW were, respectively, 5.53 +/- 0.45 mm, 8.71 +/- 0.54 mm, 8.57 +/- 0.54 mm, and 7.97 +/- 0.65 mm in the first molars and 5.61 +/- 0.65 mm, 8.40 +/- 0.65 mm, 7.95 +/- 0.88 mm, and 7.16 +/- 0.84 mm in the second molars. Analysis of variance revealed significant differences between FE and the other variables tested. The results showed that the bucco-lingual width of the furcation roof is considerably shorter than the MRW and DRW. The difference in the mean bucco-lingual dimension between FE and the other measurements occurred in all teeth evaluated and varied between 0.7 and 4.30 mm.

Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate that clinical measurements of horizontal probing depth that use the external surfaces of roots as reference points overestimate the true anatomical component of furcation involvement in mandibular molars. Conversely, positive treatment outcomes in these teeth may be underestimated. This has implications not only for clinical practice but also for clinical research studies evaluating treatment outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Furcation Defects / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Mandible
  • Molar / anatomy & histology*
  • Odontometry
  • Periodontal Attachment Loss / diagnosis
  • Periodontal Pocket / diagnosis
  • Tooth Cervix / anatomy & histology
  • Tooth Root / anatomy & histology*