It’s worth smiling about
It sounds like something which belongs in a sci-fi movie: medical treatment which involves “engineer[ing] pre-vascularized, cell-laden hydrogel pulp-like tissue”*. But it isn’t a movie or even a space-age concept. It is the immediate future of root canals, and it could save you pain, time and (possibly) expense.
A long-term study, borne out of the University of Sydney, has uncovered a method of ‘bio-printing’ transplantable tissue and organs. Essentially, what these scientists have discovered is a way of 3D printing “endothelial and/or stem cells on flat substrates”*. And what this means for dentists is a simple and effective strategy of recreating dental pulp-like tissue as a replacement for damaged or infected tooth pulp.
Ordinarily, if you presented at our office with damaged or infected tooth pulp, we would recommend you undergo a root canal procedure*. At present, a root canal procedure involves removing any infected tooth pulp and back-filling the root canal inside the tooth and gum with an artificial material to protect the tooth nerves. The problem with this treatment is that it principally renders the tooth lifeless and in a matter of several years, the tooth will likely die and need extraction. But with this new, more scientific method, we may be able to 3D print blood vessels in a lab which, when coupled with a new gel-like substance, artificially recreates tooth pulp.
The team of scientists have discovered that when the artificially-made pulp is injected with endothelium cells (the blood cells which act as defenders by forming a barricade in the vessel walls), they regenerated and multiplied near the tooth wall. And, incredibly, more artificial blood vessels constructed inside the tooth. In laymen’s terms, this means that the tooth goes from lifeless to potentially ‘alive’ again.
Dr Bertassoni, a member of this groundbreaking scientific team, says that “this result proves that fabrication of artificial blood vessels can be a highly effective strategy for fully regenerating the function of teeth”.
At this preliminary stage, there have been no side effects or complications identified as a result of the cell transplantation. However, several complex requirements are essential for successful transplantation. Namely, the size and structure of the artificial blood vessels. That is to say, that “the size should be as small as possible without affecting cell migration and formation of blood vessels and nerves during pulp regeneration”**.
More testing and studies are underway, in the meantime Dr Bertassoni believes that this new method will revolutionise the way root canals, and other treatments, are performed. Further, it may mean less recovery time for patients and fewer follow-up procedures.
We intend to keep abreast of the further developments of this procedure, so stay tuned to future blogs for updates. We will utilise this root canal method across all of our surgeries once it is perfected, but for now, we take comfort in the knowledge that the future of root canals for both patient and dentist is looking brighter and is worth smiling about.
To find out more, please contact our office or book an appointment online.
*Athirasala, A. Lins, F. Tahayeri, A. Hinds, M. Smith, A.J. Sedgley, C., Ferracane, J. and Bertassoni, L.E. (2017). A novel strategy to engineer pre-vascularized full-length dental pulp-like tissue constructs. Scientific Reports (7). doi:10.1038/s41598-017-02532-3
Brawley, T. (2017). Study: Use of prefabricated blood vessels may revolutionize root canals. Oregon Health & Science University. Retrieved from: https://news.ohsu.edu/2017/06/12/study-use-of-prefabricated-blood-vessels-may-revolutionize-root-canals
**Yang, J. Yuan, G. and Chen, Z. (2016). Pulp regeneration: current approaches and future challenges. Frontiers in Physiology. 7:58. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2016.00058
* Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.