If you’ve ever undergone a root canal procedure, then you know how painful and distressing it can be. Millions of root canals are performed each year to save teeth that have been compromised by injury, infection and other damage. Despite the benefits that this procedure can offer, the treatment remains something that most patients dread. That fear may soon be unnecessary, however, as new research indicates that there may be a way to avoid the need for root canal treatment in the future.
That news comes as the result of research conducted by scientists at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University and the University of Nottingham. Those researchers are currently studying new technology that could help dental professionals to regrow the dentin in your teeth. If their efforts prove successful, the new technological wonder could help to restore structural integrity to teeth that would otherwise require root canal treatments.
Lasers to the Rescue?
The researchers have been testing laser light to stimulate dentin growth in teeth, and have already enjoyed considerable success in their efforts. The process has proven effective in both mice and rats, and some limited testing has been done with human cell cultures as well. The light works by stimulating stem cells that already exist in the pulp of the teeth, which eliminates any potential ethical concerns raised by the harvesting of those cells.
In their studies, the researchers have utilized a process that involves drilling two tiny holes into test rodents’ molars. They then used one hole to test the effects of the laser light on the dentin, while using the other hole as a control for the experiment. After waiting twelve weeks, they compared the two holes and found that the laser-treated hole revealed signs of dentin growth, while the control hole was unchanged.
Why it Works
The scientists have determined that the laser light creates reactive oxygen species molecules that cause amino acids to produce TGF-beta (transforming growth factor beta), which in turn prompts the dentin to grow. The dentin resulting from the growth is apparently not an exact match for the teeth’s original dentin, but researchers have concluded that it is strong enough to be functional for tasks such as chewing. It is also worth noting that initial tests on the cell cultures indicate that this dentin growth seems to occur in human cells too.
What it Could Mean for You
As the researchers note, this technique would restore the structure of the tooth, but not the enamel. Thus, any treatment that used this laser light would still involve some sort of protective covering to provide that final strengthening touch. However, because the structure would be repaired by the laser light process, it could very well eliminate the need for painful root canals.
At Ebenezer Dental, we’re always excited to see dental science making progress in areas like this, and look forward to the day when patients have even more options available to them when they need to salvage damaged and diseased teeth. For now, though, regular checkups, maintenance, and trusted procedures like the root canal remain the best course of action for most patients. To learn more or to schedule your next appointment with the best dentist in midtown Manhattan, contact us today!