Ultrasonic irrigation of the root canal can be performed with or without simultaneous ultrasonic instrumentation. When canal shaping is not undertaken the term passive ultrasonic irrigation (PUI) can be used to describe the technique. In this paper the relevant literature on PUI is reviewed from a MEDLINE database search.
Passive ultrasonic irrigation can be performed with a small file or smooth wire (size 10–20) oscillating freely in the root canal to induce powerful acoustic microstreaming. PUI can be an important supplement for cleaning the root canal system and, compared with traditional syringe irrigation, it removes more organic tissue, planktonic bacteria and dentine debris from the root canal. PUI is more efficient in cleaning canals than ultrasonic irrigation with simultaneous ultrasonic instrumentation. PUI can be effective in curved canals and a smooth wire can be as effective as a cutting K-file. The taper and the diameter of the root canal were found to be important parameters in determining the efficacies of dentine debris removal. Irrigation with sodium hypochlorite is more effective than with water and ultrasonic irrigation is more effective than sonic irrigation in the removal of dentine debris from the root canal. The role of cavitation during PUI remains inconclusive. No detailed information is available on the influence of the irrigation time, the volume of the irrigant, the penetration depth of the instrument and the shape and material properties of the instrument. The influence of irrigation frequency and intensity on the streaming pattern as well as the complicated interaction of acoustic streaming with the adherent biofilm needs to be clarified to reveal the underlying physical mechanisms of PUI.