PEDIATRIC DENTISTRY/Copyright © 1988 by
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
Volume 10, Number 4
Histopathology of radiolucent furcation lesions associated
with pulpotomy-treated primary molars
David R. Myers,
James T. Barenie,
DDS, MS Laura
DDS, MS Ralph V. McKinney, DDS, PhD
C. Durham, DDS Carole M. Hanes, DMD
The purpose of this project was to characterize the histopa-
thology of radiolucent furcation lesions associated with pri-
mary molars which had received pulpotomy treatment.
Twenty-four pulpotomy-treated primary molars which
displayed radiolucent lesions in the root furcation suggesting
unsuccessful outcome were extracted. Pretreatment radio-
graphs were available for 6 teeth and none had evidence of a
furcation radiolucency. These 6 teeth were treated with a
standard formocresol pulpotomy and restored. The pretreat-
men t condition and the pulpotomy procedure employed for the
remaining 18 teeth is unknown. If a lesion remained attached
to the root, it was transferred to 10% neutral buffered for-
malin. The sockets were gently curetted and the tissue trans-
ferred to fixative. Specimens were processed and stained for
Histological examination of the lesions revealed granulo-
matous, chronic proliferative, and acute inflammation and
epithelium. Three specimens were diagnosed as furcation
granulomas. Stratified squamous epithelium was observed in
21 specimens which were diagnosed as either a furcation
granuloma with epithelium or a furcation cyst if an epithelial-
lined lumen was present.
Pulpotomy-treated primary molars should receive peri-
odic postoperative radiographic examination and be extracted
if a furcation lesion develops.
A pulpotomy is the standard treatment for vital
primary teeth with carious pulp exposures (Troutman
et al. 1982; McDonald and Avery 1983). The subsequent
degeneration of the treated radicular pulp tissue may
lead to failure of the pulpotomy (Rolling et al. 1976;
Rolling 1978; Magnusson 1978). A furcation radiolu-
cency associated with a pulpotomized primary molar is
a sign of failure of the pulpotomy treatment (Rolling
and Lambjerg-Hansen 1978; Magnusson 1978). Limited
information is available to characterize the radiolucent
lesions associated with unsuccessful pulpotomy treat-
ment. However, cystic lesions have been reported fol-
lowing pulpotomy treatment of primary molars with
formocresol, or phenol-containing
(Grundy and Adkins 1984; Savage et al. 1986).
The histopathology of furcation lesions associated
with cariously exposed primary teeth has been de-
scribed (Lustmann and Shear 1985; Myers et al. 1987).
These lesions are mixed inflammatory reactions with
the chronic granulomatous
being the predominant type observed. These lesions
may contain epithelium suggesting the potential
cystic transformation. The purpose of this project was to
characterize the histopathology of radiolucent furcation
lesions associated with primary molars which had pre-
viously received pulpotomy treatment.
The specimens were obtained during the extraction
of 24 primary molars from 17 healthy children (8 fe-
males, 9 males) aged 4-12 years. The specimens in-
cluded 10 mandibular second primary molars, 9 mandi-
bular first primary molars, 4 maxillary first primary
molars, and 1 maxillary second primary molar. None of
the children presented with acute symptoms. Most of
the cases displayed evidence of a fistula on the buccal
alveolar mucosa. All teeth had previously received
pulpotomy treatment and now, upon radiographic
examination, displayed a radiolucent lesion in the root
furcation suggesting unsuccessful
pulpotomy treatment. In some cases, the radiolucent
lesion appeared to extend beyond the root furcation and
encompass a portion of the remaining root structure. Six
of the patients were previously treated in the Medical
College of Georgia Pediatric Dentistry Clinic. Pretreat-
merit radiographs were available for these teeth and
none had evidence of a furcation radiolucency prior to
treatment. These 6 teeth were treated with a standard
formocresol pulpotomy and restored with either a silver
outcome of the
Pediatric Dentistry: December, 1988 ~ Volume 10, Number 4 291
amalgam or a stainless steel crown (Fig 1).
The pretreatment condition and the pulpotomy
procedure employed for treating the remaining 18 teeth
is unknown. None of the teeth were considered suitable
candidates for conservative pulp treatment. All teeth
were extracted in the usual manner with elevators and
forceps under local anesthesia. If a lesion remained
attached to the root structure after extraction, it was
detached and transferred to a specimen bottle contain-
ing 10% formalin. The sockets were gently curetted and
the contents transferred to the specimen bottle. The
tissue specimens were processed for routine paraffin
embedding and cut as 5-um serial sections. The sections
were stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) and
examined under a light microscope to differentiate cell
type and general features of the lesion.
Histological examination of the furcation lesions
revealed a mixed cellular response which included
granulomatous inflammation, chronic proliferative in-
flammation, acute inflammation and epithelium. Gran-
ulomatous inflammation is characterized by the pres-
ence of mononuclear phagocytic cells, monocytes and
macrophages, arranged in an orderly f ascicular or circu-
lar streaming pattern (Fig 2).
These fascicles often were surrounded by an outer
rim of lymphocytes and fibroblasts and occasionally a
core of amorphous eosinophilic material. Acute inflam-
mation characterized by the presence of polymor-
phonuclear leukocytes was evident in most specimens
as was chronic proliferative inflammation including
lymphocytes, monocytes, macrophages, and plasma
Variation was observed between sections in the rela-
tive amounts of the various inflammatory cells. Fibrob-
lasts were evident in most specimens. Foreign body
type giant cells were observed in some sections. Granu-
lation tissue was not observed.
Stratified squamous epithelium was observed in 21
of the 24 specimens. The epithelium frequently demon-
strated exocytosis and spongiosis (Figs 3,4 - next page).
The presence of epithelial rosettes or epithelial is-
FIG 1. Pretreatment radiograph revealing distal caries expos-
ing the pulp of the mandibular first primary molar (A). Post-
treatment radiograph 17 months following formocresol
pulpotomy treatment of the first primary molar. Note the
furcation radiolucency (B).
lands (Rests of Serres), the residue of odontogenic epi-
thelium, were observed in several specimens (Fig 5).
Three of the specimens were diagnosed as furcation
granulomas. Twenty-one of the specimens were diag-
nosed as either a furcation granuloma with epithelium
or a furcation cyst if a definite epithelial-lined lumen
The histological picture of the specimens was essen-
tially that of a dental granuloma (Block et al. 1976;
Langeland et al. 1977; Weiner et al. 1982). Mixed inflam-
matory reactions were observed with the chronic gran-
ulomatous inflammatory reaction being the predomi-
nant type. Epithelium was observed in 21 of the speci-
mens. This finding suggests that most of the lesions
were cysts or had the potential for cystic transformation.
Potential sources of epithelium include remnants of the
dental lamina and odontogenic epithelium (Rests of
Serres), or epithelium introduced from the oral cavity.
These histological findings are similar to those previ-
ously reported for furcation lesions associated with
cariously exposed nonpulpotomized primary molar
teeth (Myers et al. 1987). However, a significantly
greater number of these pulpotomy-treated specimens
contained epithelium than did the untreated specimens.
Epithelium was observed in 21 of 24 of these pulpo-
tomy-treated teeth compared to 10 of 21 of the untreated
teeth (Myers et al. 1987).
FIG 2. (left) H&E-stained paraffin section
from a furcation lesion showing the typi-
cal orderly pattern of granulomatous in-
FIG 3. (right) Cystic epithelium from a
furcation lesion showing extensive
spongiosis and exocytosis (A). Also note
the granulomatous inflammatory re-
sponse in the underlying connective tis-
sue (B) (125x).
292 LESIONS ASSOCIATED WITH PULPOTOMIZED PRIMARY MOLARS: Myers et al.
FIG 4. (left) An epithelial-lined cyst cavity
(e.g., between arrowheads) from a furca-
tion lesion. The epithelium reveals exten-
sive exocytosis with the infiltration of
numerous monocytic and lymphocytic
inflammatory cells (lOOOx).
FIG 5. (right) Epithelial rosettes and ep-
ithelial islands (arrows) associated with
the cystic furcation lesions suggesting
remnants of odontogenic epithelium
Formocresol is the most commonly employed
pulpotomy agent in the United States (Spedding 1968).
In addition to the 6 teeth known to have been treated
with formocresol, it is likely most of the remaining 18
teeth also were treated by the formocresol procedure.
Formocresol is absorbed from a pulpotomy site, concen-
trated in the periodontal ligament and surrounding
alveolar bone, and distributed systemically (Myers et al.
1978). The pulp response to formocresol is mixed and
ranges from essentially healthy pulp tissue to total
necrosis (Rolling and Lambjerg-Hansen 1978). Since
these lesions associated with pulpotomy-treated teeth
are essentially the same histologically as the lesions
associated with primary molars which had furcation
lesions without pulp treatment, the lesions cannot be
specifically attributed to the use of formocresol. A re-
cent report suggests that cystic lesions associated with
pulp-treated primary molars are immune reactions
possibly occurring as the result of phenolic groupings
(Savage et al. 1986). Possibly, the use of formocresol may
have contributed to the increased incidence of cystic
lesions associated with these pulpotomized teeth com-
pared to the previous report describing lesions associ-
ated with untreated teeth (Myers et al. 1987).
Several limitations are present in this study. The
pretreatment condition and the exact pulpotomy proce-
dure employed to treat 18 of the teeth is unknown. It is
possible a furcation radiolucency was associated with
some of these teeth prior to performing the pulpotomy.
Therefore, the lesion could represent a pre-existing
condition instead of a lesion resulting directly from a
pulpotomy failure. Granulation tissue was not ob-
served because the peripheral areas of the lesion were
curetted gently to avoid any damage to the developing
premolar. Granulation tissue likely would be present in
the peripheral area as the lesion attempted to repair.
An important clinical implication is that a primary
molar treated by pulpotomy may develop a furcation
granuloma which has the potential for cystic transfor-
mation. The absence of clinical symptoms does not
mean that a pulpotomy-treated tooth is healthy. Pulpo-
tomy-treated primary teeth should receive a periodic
postoperative radiographic examination. A primary
molar which develops a furcation lesion following a
pulpotomy treatment should be extracted.
Dr. Myers is a Merritt professor of pediatric dentistry and acting
associate dean for clinical sciences; Dr. Durham is a part-time assis-
tant professor, Dr. Hanes is an assistant professor, Dr. Barenie is a
professor and acting chairman, pediatric dentistry; and Dr. McKin-
ney is a professor and chairman, oral pathology, all at the Medical
College of Georgia. Reprint requests should be sent to: Dr. David R.
Myers, Acting Associate Dean for Clinical Sciences, Medical College
of Georgia, School of Dentistry, Augusta, GA 30912-0200.
Block RM, Bushell A, Rodrigues H, Langeland K: A histologic,
histobacteriologic, and radiographic study of periapical endo-
dontic surgical specimens. Oral Surg 42:656-78,1976.
Grundy GE, Adkins KF: Cysts associated with deciduous molars
following pulp therapy. Aust Dent ] 29:249-56,1984.
Lustmann }, Shear M: Radicular cysts arising from deciduous teeth.
Int} Oral Surg 14:153-61,1985.
Langeland K, Block RM, Grossman LI: A histopathologic and histo-
bacteriologic study of 35 periapical endodontic surgical speci-
mens. } Endod 3:8-23,1977.
Magnusson BO: Therapeutic pulpotomies in primary molars with
the formocresol technique. Acta Odontol Scand 36:157-65,1978.
McDonald RE, A very DR: Dentistry for the Child and Adolescent, 4th
ed. St. Louis; CV Mosby Co, 1983 pp 207-35.
Myers DR, Battenhouse MR, Barenie JT, McKinney RV, Singh B:
Histopathology of furcation lesions associated with pulp degen-
eration in primary molars. Pediatr Dent 9:279-82,1987.
Myers DR, Shoaf HK, Dirksen TR, Pashley DH, Whitford GM, Rey-
nolds KE: Distribution of I4C formaldehyde after pulpotomy
with formocresol. J Am Dent Assoc 96:805-13,1978.
Rolling I, Hasselgren G, Tronstad L: Morphological and enzyme
histochemical observations on the pulp of human primary mo-
lars 3 to 5 years after formocresol treatment. Oral Surg 42:518-28,
Rolling I, Lambjerg-Hansen H: Pulp condition of successfully form-
ocresol-treated primary molars. Scand J Dent Res 86:267-72,1978.
Savage NW, Adkins KF, Weir AV, Grundy GE: An histological study
of cystic lesions following pulp therapy in primary molars. J Oral
Pediatric Dentistry: December, 1988 ~ Volume 10, Number 4 293
Spedding RH: Pulp therapy for primary teeth -- a survey of North
American dental schools. J Dent Child 35:360-67, 1968.
KC et al: Pulp therapy, in Pediatric Dentistry -- Scientific
and Clinical Practice, Stewart RE et al, eds. St Louis;
CV Mosby Co, 1982 pp 908-41.
Weiner S, McKinney
pical surgical specimens. Oral Surg 53:293-302, 1982.
RV, Walton RE: Characterization of the peria-
Soviet dentist profiled
The lifestyles of a dentist living in the Soviet Union and a Minnesota dentist were compared in a June
article in Money magazine.
What is life like for a prosperous Soviet family? Are they better or worse off than we think? Are their
aspirations different from ours? These were just a few of the questions Money explored by focusing on the
everyday life of the family of a successful Moscow dentist compared with that of anAmerican dentist and
his family. The similarities were as striking as the differences.
Both families’ income rank in the top 3% in their countries: $120,000 a year for the Americans, $22,440
for the Soviets. And both have elegant residences, vacation homes and new cars. But after that the
resemblance begins to fade.
Descriptions of the routine frustrations of Soviet life, scarcity of consumer goods, and high income
taxes (13% on state wages-- but up to 90% on private income), along with the advantages of free medical
care and education, give readers some idea of the quality of life in the USSR.
Soviet dentists, or tooth doctors, as they are called, are paid 110 to 150 rubles (less than $300) a month
at state-run polyclinics. But, rather than settle for free but often shoddy care at the polyclinics, many
people are willing to pay a good dentist privately. The private practice income of the Soviet dentist
profiled in the Money story reached 1200 rubles ($2040) some months before taxes.
The featured American family, while having a high income, has to devote a huge chunk of their annual
income to educating their children. Both families face a comfortable retirement with pensions from the
government and, for the Americans, from profit sharing plans and IRAs.
LES~ONS ASSOCIATED WITH
PULPOTOMIZED PRIMARY MOLARS: Myers et al.