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Abstract

Axons in the rat molar pulp have been examined morphometrically to determine axonal size and the degree of axonal exposure and axoaxonal apposition in tissue fixed by perfusion using 2% glutaraldehyde in cacodylate buffers ranging in molarity from 0.025 M to 0.4 M. Between 31.2% and 45.0% of the axons were incompletely ensheathed. This proportion of axons exposed was linearly related to the buffer molarity (P < 0.05) and was approximately double that found in more central axons. Between 32.3% and 45.0% of the axons were in contact with other axons. This proportion was not linearly related to buffer molarity but was at least ten times higher than that observed in more centrally positioned nerve fibers in the inferior alveolar nerves. Increasing buffer molarity reduced the size of the axons, a relationship not found in the more central axons. It is suggested that axonal exposure and axoaxonal apposition are constant, significant features of pulpal nerve fibers that may be related to the onset and spread of nociceptive activity. The permeability properties of pulpal axons may differ from those of more centrally placed axons.