Nobody ever wants to get a root canal, even if you are throbbing with pain and you know that the tooth is infected. But up until now, there have been few other options, aside from having the tooth pulled and replacing it with a prosthetic one.
But this could all be a thing of the past in the very near future. You see, researchers from the University of Nottingham and Harvard University are working on a new type of bio dental filling that encourages natural tooth repair, and that could ultimately prevent root canals.
Each year, millions of people visit the dentist to have cavities drilled and filled with standard dental fillings. Usually, this can protect the pulp chamber of the tooth and the inner nerve from infection or death, preventing the need to either perform a root canal or remove the tooth. But about 10% of the time, these fillings do not work as intended and the tooth dies anyway, resulting in a root canal or an extraction.
Using a new bio material, researchers may have finally derived a plausible solution. This new filling material not only prevents the site of the filling from becoming infected, but also helps the pulp create new layers of dentin, the protective layer that surrounds the pulp chamber that houses the nerve in the tooth.
“Existing dental fillings are toxic to cells and are therefore incompatible with pulp tissue inside the tooth,” said Dr Adam Celiz of the University of Nottingham. “In cases of dental pulp disease and injury a root canal is typically performed to remove the infected tissues. We have designed synthetic biomaterials that can be used similarly to dental fillings but can be placed in direct contact with pulp tissue to stimulate the native stem cell population for repair and regeneration of pulp tissue and the surrounding dentin.”
When a tooth has become decayed, the enamel protecting the outer surface has eroded, making it easier for pathogens to invade the pulp chamber. Once the inner layer of dentin is exposed, acids and bacteria can erode it and ultimately enter the pulp chamber, infecting the nerve. But this new bio material helps stimulate stem cells in the pulp, resulting in the regeneration of dentin and the tooth actually repairing itself.
It may be some time before clinical human trials are underway. But don’t be surprised if root canals become a thing of the past in the next five years.
Now there’s something to really smile about.