John C. Chao, D.D.S.

Research Associate Professor, University at Buffalo, SUNY
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Ostrow School of Dentistry, USC

(626) 308-9104

News & Press



No More Root Canals?

What if there is no more need for root canal treatment to be done in order save a “dead” tooth? Researchers at the University of Nottingham and the Wyss Institute at Harvard University has developed new regenerative dental fillings that use stems cells inside our teeth to repair tissue. This potentially can make conventional root canal treatment a choice, but not the only alternative when you have an “abscessed” tooth, or a tooth which has a “dead” nerve. This new regenerative filling contains “pluri-potent” cells which has the biologic potential of becoming whatever cells are needed to regenerate the nerves, blood vessels and other tissue in the canals of the tooth. This this source of cells actually can be recruited by this innovative filling material.

During a root canal procedure, the pulp of the tooth and the nerve are removed. If the new treatment becomes available, fillings made of synthetic biomaterials would be inserted, stimulating dental stems cells to repair and regenerate dentin, which is the hard, organic substance that accounts for root and inner structure of the crown of the tooth.

Stems cells can serve many different functions in the body, including repairs, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Stems cells are currently used, for example, to help treat spinal injuries, arthritis and diabetes.

Stems cells are already being used in dentistry to regenerate bone and gums through a process called Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP). In this application of stem cell regeneration, platelets from the blood drawn from the patient is concentrated through a centrifuging process. This process causes the plasma to be infused with high amount of growth factors (stems cells). The enriched plasma is then reintroduced into the appropriate site to assist in the regeneration of bone and gum.

Thus, stems cell research is now in the throes of revolutionizing the field of endodontics, the specialty concerned with saving teeth through root canal treatment. In the new era endodontists, and perhaps general practitioners, will administer the regenerative filling material using the proper clinical protocol to regenerate the nerves of the tooth in the similar manner that dentists are now regenerating bone and gum with stems cell technology.

It is not expected that this regenerative filling material will be less costly than doing regular root canal. Therefore on the basis of cost alone, the public is advised to observe proper dental hygiene as well as dietary recommendation to avoid developing cavities that can lead to abscessed teeth.

It is, of course, important to see your dentist regular for check ups and cleaning in order to avoid expensive and possibly uncomfortable root canals.


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