Background/aims: The presence of selected bacteria (Enterococcus faecalis, Porphyromonas gingivalis, Prevotella intermedia, Tannerella forsythensis, Treponema denticola) in infected root canals was studied using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays, and the association of bacteria with clinical signs of endodontic disease was assessed. The null hypothesis, that no difference could be observed between clinical signs of apical periodontitis and a specific bacterial strain, was tested.
Methods: Microbial samples were obtained from 62 teeth in 54 patients with endodontic disease. For each tooth, clinical data including patient symptoms were collected. Teeth were categorized by diagnosis as having acute apical periodontitis (AAP, teeth with clinical symptoms but no periapical radiolucency, n=22), chronic apical periodontitis (CAP, teeth with radiolucency but no clinical symptoms, n=15) or exacerbated apical periodontitis (EAP, teeth with symptoms and radiolucency, n=25). Seventy-one percent of cases were primary endodontic infections, and 29% were recurrent ('secondary') endodontic infections (failing cases). PCR assays were used to detect the presence of the selected bacteria.
Results: T. denticola and E. faecalis were each detected in 15 of 62 samples (24%), P. gingivalis in 8 samples (13%), P. intermedia in 5 samples (8%), and T. forsythensis in 4 samples (7%). T. denticola was detected in 56% of teeth with EAP. E. faecalis was found in 60% of teeth with CAP and in 72% of teeth with secondary infection. Statistical analysis demonstrated an association of CAP and secondary endodontic infection with the presence of E. faecalis. (P<0.01). EAP was associated with the presence of T. denticola (P<0.01).
Conclusion: T. denticola was associated with symptomatic endodontic disease in the presence of apical bone resorption. E. faecalis was associated with treatment failures. We suggest that these species may play critical roles in endodontic pathology.