Extracted human teeth are used in many preclinical courses. While there has been no report of disease transmission with extracted teeth, sterilization of teeth used in the teaching laboratory should be a concern. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of different sterilization/disinfection methods of extracted human teeth using Bacillus stearothermophilus, a bacteria resistant to heat and frequently used to test sterilizers. In this study, 110 extracted molars with no carious lesions were collected and stored in buffered saline. An endodontic occlusal access preparation was cut into the pulp chamber of each tooth. Pulp tissue in the chamber was removed with a broach. Approximately 1 x 10(5) B. stearothermophilus endospores in culture medium were injected into the pulp chamber, sealed with Cavit G, and then placed in sterile saline for twelve hours. Ten teeth were placed into each of eleven groups. Seven groups were immersed for one week in one of the following solutions: a) sterile saline (control group), b) 5.25% NaOCl, c) 2.6% NaOCl, d) 1% NaOCl, e) 10% buffered formalin, f) 2% gluteraldehyde, g) 0.28% quaternary ammonium. Four additional groups were treated by h) 10% formalin for two days, i) 10% formalin for four days, j) autoclaving at 240 degrees F and 20 psi for twenty minutes, and k) autoclaving at 240 degrees F and twenty psi for forty minutes. Each tooth was then aseptically split and placed in an individual test tube with growth medium. Samples were examined for evidence of growth (turbidity) at forty-eight hours. Only autoclaving for forty minutes at 240 degrees F and 20 psi or soaking in 10 percent formalin for one week were 100 percent effective in preventing growth. A chi-square analysis of the data indicates these two methods were significantly better than all other methods (p<0.001).