Prof. Dr. Kishor Gulabivala

Relevance of spatial skills in endodontics


  • Introduction to spatial skills
  • What the literature tells us
  • Application of principles to endodontics
  • Possible relationship with emerging 3D technologies


Spatial ability is “the mental faculty to generate, retain, retrieve and transform well-structured visual images” (Lohman et al. 1994). It is a core component of intelligence (Thurstone 1938) and fundamental to ‘everyday’ tasks, such as navigating to the shop; packing a car boot and assembling flat-packed furniture (Casey 2013). Higher spatial ability enhances comprehension of visual information (Höffler 2010) and technical performance in: architectural design (Salthouse et al. 1990), dentistry (Kozhevnikov et al. 2013), engineering (Sorby et al. 2013), sport (Notarnicola et al. 2013, Langlois et al. 2015) and probably deep learning (Gulabivala).  

Spatial performance is putatively malleable and may be enhanced through training and experience (Uttal et al. 2013). The two-way relationship between spatial ability and dental education showed a positive correlation in restorative dentistry (Hegarty et al. 2009). 

Root canal treatment is famously reliant on tactile skills, without the benefit of direct visual sense of instrumentation. Training and coaching in this domain could be significantly improved by better 3D mental visualisation. Adoption of the emerging technologies in 3D workflows may be influenced by innate spatial skills but conversely, such technology may aid development of spatial skills. The principle could also be readily applied to all branches of dentistry.

Curriculum Vitae

Prof. Dr. Kishor Gulabivala graduated from Birmingham Dental School in 1980 and received his MSc in Conservative Dentistry at the Eastman Dental Institute. He established programmes for MSc, MClinDent and Specialist Training in Endodontics and entered UK Specialist Lists in Restorative Dentistry, Prosthodontics and Endodontics in 2000.

Dr. Gulabivala was appointed Head of the newly established Department of Endodontology in 2003, having served as head and manager of the Endodontic clinical services between since 1994, as well as the academic lead in Endodontics. He was appointed Professor of Endodontology in 2005.

He has run over 100 hands-on courses on Endodontics for general dental practitioners and published over 100 peer-reviewed papers.