Periodontal files are used by many dentists for instrumentation of root surfaces as a part of periodontal treatment. The purposes of this study were: 1) to examine, evaluate, and compare several periodontal files in 3 different conditions: new, used, and used/sharpened and 2) to evaluate the efficacy of 5 sharpening devices. The main characteristics observed included: the number, shape, and ... [Show full abstract] interval of blades; the active, rake, and lip angles; changes induced by wear; the influence of sharpening; and the type of metal surfaces comprising the blades. There was a wide range of active angles on each individual file, from a high of 75 degrees to a low of 51 degrees. The range of active angles for all blades on all new files was even greater, from a high of 87 degrees to a low of 30 degrees. Wear, observed on some but not all blades, was not extensive and appeared either as abrasion or, occasionally, as fracture of the blade edge. Sharpness scores (5 = sharpest and 1 = dullest) for new file blades were also extremely variable and spanned the full range of values, with a majority of blades scoring 3.5 and below. Attempts to sharpen files with several devices produced inconsistent results. All 5 sharpening devices had significant shortcomings. It was concluded that the extreme ranges both in active angles and in sharpness scores probably have a significant influence on effectiveness of root instrumentation.