Pulp and apical tissue response to deep caries in immature teeth: A histologic and histobacteriologic study

Domenico Ricucci, José F. Siqueira, Simona Loghin, Louis M. Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Descriptions of the pathologic changes in the pulp and associated apical structures of human immature teeth in response to deep caries are lacking in the literature. Objectives This article describes the histologic events associated with the radicular pulp and the apical tissues of human immature teeth following pulp inflammation and necrosis. Methods Twelve immature teeth with destructive caries lesions were obtained from 8 patients. Two intact immature teeth served as controls. Teeth were extracted for reasons not related to this study and immediately processed for histopathologic and histobacteriologic analyses. Serial sections were examined for the pulp conditions and classified as reversible or irreversible pulp inflammation, or pulp necrosis. Other histologic parameters were also evaluated. Results In the 3 cases with reversible pulp inflammation, tissue in the pulp chamber showed mild to moderate inflammation and tertiary dentin formation related to tubules involved in the caries process. Overall, the radicular pulp tissue, apical papilla and Hertwig's epithelial root sheath (HERS) exhibited characteristics of normality. In the 3 cases with irreversible pulp inflammation, the pulps were exposed and severe inflammation occurred in the pulp chamber, with minor areas of necrosis and infection. Large areas of the canal walls were free from odontoblasts and lined by an atubular mineralized tissue. The apical papilla showed extremely reduced cellularity or lack of cells and HERS was discontinuous or absent. In the 6 cases with pulp necrosis, the coronal and radicular pulp tissue was necrotic and colonized by bacterial biofilms. The apical papilla could not be discerned, except for one case. HERS was absent in the necrotic cases. Conclusion While immature teeth with reversible pulpitis showed histologic features almost similar to normal teeth in the canal and in the apical region, those with irreversible pulpitis and necrosis exhibited significant alterations not only in the radicular pulp but also in the apical tissues, including the apical papilla and HERS. Clinical significance Alterations in the radicular pulp and apical tissues help explain the outcome of current regenerative/reparative therapies and should be taken into account when devising more predictable therapeutic protocols for teeth with incomplete root formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-32
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Dentistry
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Apical papilla
  • Dental caries
  • Hertwig's epithelial root sheath
  • Immature teeth
  • Odontoblasts
  • Radicular dentin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry


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