Root canal – it’s hard to even read those two words without wincing. But this particular dental procedure has gotten an unjustly deserved bad reputation. With modern dental techniques, root canals often are no worse than getting a filling.
That said, a root canal is not something you want or that your dentist wants to do. It’s a last- resort procedure aimed at saving a tooth that would otherwise be lost by removing decay and infected tissue, and replacing it with “gutta-percha,” a rubber-like material from the sap of a particular tree. After a root canal, your tooth is free of infection but it’s also less strong than it had been.
But in the somewhat near future, root canals may be a thing of the past. Researchers from the University of Nottingham and the Wyss Institute at Harvard University have developed biomaterials for dental treatments that help your teeth to heal and rebuild themselves.
Grow Your Own Teeth
When your teeth are decayed, the first line of defense is typically a filling. Your dentist drills away the decay and fills the tooth with either a composite resin, gold or silver, or porcelain.
Fillings help to stop decay. But they also weaken a tooth somewhat and 10 to 15 percent of fillings will eventually fail, according to Adam Celiz, a therapeutic biomaterials researcher from University of Nottingham. When this happens, the next step to save that unhealthy tooth is often a root canal.
If we had better fillings, we might be able to avoid root canals. And that’s what Celiz and his team developed: a new kind of filling made from synthetic biomaterial that can stimulate the growth of dental stem cells inside the tooth, encouraging teeth to repair and regenerate dentin.
Dentin is the substance underneath your teeth’s enamel. It’s a yellowish bonelike material that makes up the bulk of the tooth. Underneath the dentin is the pulp tissue, which contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue.
We need that tissue to grow adult teeth, but after our permanent teeth have settled in, pulp is no longer necessary. If it becomes infected from dental decay or an injury to the mouth, it can be removed. And that’s what happens during a root canal.
Affordable Root Canals
The research team has been awarded a prize in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s “Emerging Technologies Competition 2016” for their discovery.
Applications for Emerging Technologies prize were judged on the degree of innovation of the technology, its potential impact, and the quality of the science behind it. The research team will receive business support from multinational partner companies, business training, and a cash prize of £3,000.
Since the contest began in 2013, winners have gone on to raise a combined total of over $2 million in further funding, grown their companies and entered commercial contracts.
Given that track record, it’s likely that we’ll see this dental technology advance someday soon, but don’t expect it to show up at a dental office near you next week.
In the meantime, if you’ve been putting off getting regular dental checkups due to budget issues, dental savings plans provide savings of 10%-60% on a wide variety of preventive dental care —including root canals and crowns.
Find out more about dental savings plans at dentalplans.com, or by calling 1-800-238-5163