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Journal of Applied Oral Science

Print version ISSN 1678-7757

J. Appl. Oral Sci. vol.19 no.3 Bauru May/June 2011 



Radiopacity evaluation of Portland and MTA-based cements by digital radiographic system



Alvaro Henrique BorgesI; Fabio Luiz Miranda PedroI; Alex Semanoff-SegundoI; Carlos Eduardo Saraiva MirandaII; Jesus Djalma PécoraIII; Antônio Miranda Cruz FilhoIII

IDDS, MSc, PhD, Department of Endodontics, Dental School, University of Cuiabá, Cuiabá, MT, Brazil
IIDDS, MSc, PhD, Department of Restorative Dentistry, Ribeirão Preto Dental School, University of São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil
IIIDDS, MSc, PhD, Department of Chemistry, University of Ribeirão Preto, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil

Corresponding address




OBJECTIVE: The aim of the present study was to evaluate the radiopacity of Portland and MTA-based cements using the Digora TM digital radiographic system.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: The performed tests followed specification number 57 from the American National Standard Institute/American Dental Association (2000) for endodontic sealing materials. The materials were placed in 5 acrylic plates, especially designed for this experiment, along with a graduated aluminum stepwedge varying from 1 to 10 mm in thickness. The set was radiographed at a 30 cm focus-object distance and with 0.2 s exposure time. After the radiographs were taken, the optical laser readings of radiographs were performed by Digora TM system. Five radiographic density readings were performed for each studied material and for each step of the aluminum scale.
RESULTS: White ProRoot MTA (155.99±8.04), gray ProRoot MTA (155.96±16.30) and MTA BIO (143.13±16.94) presented higher radiopacity values (p<0.05), while white non-structural Portland (119.76±22.34), gray Portland (109.71±4.90) and white structural Portland (99.59±12.88) presented lower radiopacity values (p<0.05).
CONCLUSIONS: It was concluded that MTA-based cements were the only materials presenting radiopacity within the ANSI/ADA specifications.

Key words: endodontics. Dental radiography. Digital radiography. Radiology. Retrograde obturation. Root canal filling materials.




The role of endodontic sealers is to establish a perfect and hermetic periapical environment seal18. Ideally, these materials should be biocompatible with periradicular tissues, non-absorbable, adaptable to dentin walls and should present good handling characteristics and no cytotoxicity6,19,22,23.

Mineral trioxide aggregate (MTA)-based cements have been widely investigated for endodontic applications19. The use of MTA as retrofilling material, in animals, has shown an induction of lower inflammatory response4. MTA has been also employed for pulp capping20, in root perforations reparation18 and as barrier for teeth with open apexes13.

Although MTA is known for its superiority compared to other retrofilling materials, it is more expensive, limiting its use. Biocompatibility studies comparing MTA and Portland cements have shown similar results22. Most components are similar for both materials10. Bismuth oxide, which is responsible for radiopacity, is present in MTA, but not in Portland cement10,12. This material is classified as structural or non-structural cement. Structural cement presents high quantities of carbonatic material in its composition, being responsible for material resistance2.

The ideal filling material should present sufficient radiopacity to be distinguished from dental structures and be evaluated inside the cavity24. Studies evaluating radiopacity employ an aluminum stepwedge, and more recently, digital methods that determine gray values have been proposed3, involving radiograph digitization and the use of specific software to determine the pixel gray values25. In this process, these values are converted into millimeters of aluminium equivalent and related to radiopacity of materials5. Using a digital radiography system, this study evaluated the radiopacity of Portland and MTA-based cements according to the American National Standard Institute/American Dental Association's specification #57 for endodontic sealing materials1.



Five acrylic plates (2.2 cm x 4.5 cm x 1 mm) with 6 holes measuring 1 mm in depth and 5 mm of internal diameter were fabricated5. The acrylic plates were placed onto a glass plate covered by cellophane paper and each orifice was filled with one of the tested cements (Figure 1).

For the radiographic exposure, each acrylic plate containing the cements was positioned together with another acrylic plate (1.3 cm x 4.5 cm x 1 mm), which contained a graduated aluminum stepwedge varying from 1 to 10 mm in thickness, and uniform steps of 1 mm each1.

The set of plates was built with standardized measurements in a way that they would correspond exactly to the sensor size (phosphor plate), from Digora TM system (Soredex, Orion Corporation, Helsink, Finland), used for data collection. A 70 kVp and 8 mA radiograph machine, Spectro 70X (Dabi Atlante, Dabi Atlante Indústrias Médico Odontológicas Ltda, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil), was used. The focus-object distance was 30 cm (ANSI/ADA 2000) and exposure time at 0.2 s, as instructed for digital radiography of phosphor plates, by the manufacturer (Figure 2).

An acrylic positioning device with metallic fastener held sensors and provided an adequate and standardized focus-object distance. The radiograph machine head was fixed on the same position with central beam presenting 90º angle of incidence with the acrylic/sensor surface plates set. A rectangular collimator (Dabi Atlante, Dabi Atlante Indústrias Médico Odontológicas Ltda) presenting 3x4 cm aperture reduced possible secondary radiation by being attached to the end of cylinder.

The sensor, after being exposed, was inserted into the laser optical reader of DigoraTM for Windows 5.1 software. As soon as the first image was revealed on screen, parameters suggested by the system were established, allowing to image standardization. The same phosphor plate was used for all exposures to avoid possible differences between plates.

The system performed a radiographic density reading over images of each cement revealed on screen, and also a reading of steps on an aluminum stepwedge, resulting in a numeric value for each reading. This value was written down by the evaluator. After evaluating the 5 acrylic set of plates, 5 measurements for each type of cement and for each step of the aluminum scale were obtained. Mean values of radiographic density and graduated aluminum stepwedge were determined for each material. Mean values were taken by a single evaluator previously trained and blinded with regard to the different groups. Intergroup relation analysis was tested using one-way ANOVA (α=0.05). Pairwise multiple comparisons were carried out using the Bonferroni test (α=0.05) in the cases where the ANOVA test showed significant differences.



The mean radiographic density values of the cements, in mm Al, are presented in Table 1. MTA-based cements (MTA BIO, gray and white ProRoot MTA) presented the highest radiopacity values among the tested materials (p<0.05), overcoming 3 steps from the aluminum stepwedge, which is the minimum radiopacity recommended by the ANSI/ADA specification number 571 (Figure 3).



No statistically differences were observed between each other. Portland cements (gray, white structural and white non-structural) presented the lowest radiopacity values (p<0.05), not reaching the ANSI/ADA1 (2000) recommendation.



Up to present moment, there are no specific standards for retrofilling materials to support and reference studies on their physico-chemical properties. Published studies followed standards proposed by the ANSI/ADA specification number 571 for endodontic sealing materials11,27, and the ISO 6876 standard for zinc oxide and eugenol endodontic sealing materials6,15. This equivalence is based on the fact that, under clinical conditions, retrofilling materials and root filling materials remain in direct contact with periodontal and periapical tissues8,18.

Both ISO and ANSI/ADA have adopted equivalence procedures with an aluminium scale steps, in order to analyze several dental materials radiopacity3. It is known that the radiopacity of 1 mm of dentin is equivalent to 1 mm of aluminum in a graduated stepwedge9. According to the ANSI/ADA specification number 571, an endodontic sealing material should present radiopacity correspondent to at least 3 mm Al.

Digital measurement methods have been proposed by determining gray-tones values, measured in pixels21. These systems can differentiate all shades of gray on a digital image, while the naked human eye cannot identify 255 shades, on a non-digitized film5. Some studies used direct methods of analysis5, while others preferred indirect methods, through scanning images obtained by occlusal films25,26. Besides, digital x-ray films provide reduction in processing time and in number of steps that could interfere on final radiograph quality21.

Retrofilling materials should present enough radiopacity to be radiographically distinguished from surrounding structures, such as tooth and alveolar bone, and to reveal empty spaces and inappropriate contours17. Only gray and white ProRoot MTA cements and MTA BIO, among the studied materials, met the ANSI/ADA recommendations. This fact was expected since ProRoot MTA and MTA BIO are reinforced with 20% bismuth oxide in their composition7,10. However, other studies reported a lower quantity of bismuth oxide on MTA BIO composition, justifying its lower radiopacity in comparison to ProRoot MTA, corroborating with this study's findings6,8,16.

The original formulation of Portland cement did not present bismuth oxide10, determining its low radiopacity and making impossible to distinguish it from bone tissue14. Mean values obtained for this cement were lower than 2 mm Al, not reaching the minimum requirements of the ANSI/ADA1 (2000). The inadequate radiopacity of Portland cement has been reported8. In order to address this issue, radiopacity was studied when Portland cement was associated to different radiopacifiers14. Results demonstrated that incorporation of a radiopacifier agent promotes satisfactory radiopacity, being also higher than dentin radiopacity14. However, it should be further investigated if the cement/radiopacifier agent mixture does not interfere with the original physicochemical properties and biocompatibility of Portland cements.



Based on the employed methodology and obtained results, it can be concluded that only MTA-based cements met the ANSI/ADA specification number 571 with respect to radiopacity.



1- American Dental Association - ANSI/ADA. Specification 57: endodontic sealing material. Chicago: ANSI/ADA; 2000.         [ Links ]

2- Associação Brasileira de Cimento Portland. Guia básico de utilização do cimento Portland. 7ª. ed. São Paulo; 2002.         [ Links ]

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13- Hayashi M, Shimizu A, Ebisu S. MTA for obturation of mandibular central incisors with open apices: case report. J Endod. 2004;30:120-2.         [ Links ]

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15- International Organization for Standardization. ISO 6876: dental root canal sealing materials. 2nd ed. Geneva: ISO; 2001.         [ Links ]

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17- Laghios CD, Benson BW, Gutmann JL, Cutler CW. Comparative radiopacity of tetracalcium phosphate and other root-end filling materials. Int Endod J. 2000;33:311-5.         [ Links ]

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23- Saidon J, He J, Zhu Q, Safavi K, Spångberg LSW. Cell and tissue reactions to mineral trioxide aggregate and Portland cement. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 2003;95:483-9.         [ Links ]

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25- Tanomaru-Filho M, Jorge EG, Guerreiro Tanomaru JM, Gonçalves M. Radiopacity evaluation of new root canal filling materials by digitalization of images. J Endod. 2007;33:249-51.         [ Links ]

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27- Wiltbank KB, Schwartz SA, William G, Schindler WG. Effect of selected accelerants on the physical properties of mineral trioxide aggregate and Portland cement. J Endod. 2007;33:1235-8.         [ Links ]



Corresponding address:
Antônio Miranda da Cruz Filho
Praça Pompilio Conceição, casa 10 - Residencial Vila Aliança, Jd. Botânico
14021-594 - Ribeirão Preto, SP - Brasil
Phone: +55-16-3234-9551 - Fax: +55-16-3602-4792

Received: July 29, 2009
Modification: February 16, 2010
Accepted: May 25, 2010

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