Diamonds: A Dentist’s Best Friend?

***UPDATED: October 25, 2017*** New research out of the UCLA School of Dentistry and the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science further confirms the effectiveness of the use of nanodiamonds in root canals.  The tiny particles made of carbon are capable of delivering a wide range of drugs and imaging agents that could prevent infection after treatment.

“Harnessing the unique properties of nanodiamonds in the clinic may help scientists, doctors and dentists overcome key challenges that confront several areas of health care, including improving lesion healing in oral health,” said Dean Ho, professor of oral biology and medicine in the dental school and a co-corresponding author of the study.

“We believe nanodiamonds could ultimately help us sidestep drug resistance in cancer, improve the efficiency of magnetic resonance imaging and address other clinical challenges,” said Ho, who also is a professor of bioengineering, co-director of the Jane and Jerry Weintraub Center for Reconstructive Biotechnology, and a member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA.

For details on the latest research, check out this article from Science Daily.

***UPDATED: October 28, 2015*** Scientists have recently developed a new material using nanodiamonds, tiny, microscopic diamonds, that have the potential to improve traditional root canal therapies. The procedure is very common with millions of Americans receiving root canals annually. The process includes the removal of damaged or infected pulp, the soft part in the middle of a tooth. Currently, dentists typically use a rubber compound called gutta-percha to refill the space. Unfortunately, this material does not protect against further infection, leading dentists to search for an alternative option. One of the materials being studied is the nanodiamond. According to a recent article from Science Daily, scientists combined nanodiamonds, gutta-percha and amoxicillin to create a new material. In lab tests, it proved to be stronger than gutta-percha on its own and was effective at killing Staphylococcus aureus, one of the bacteria responsible for reinfection. While future studies are necessary, the potential for this composite is great.

Osteonecorsis is a potentially debilitating disease that causes bones to break down due to reduced blood flow, and when it strikes the jaw, the consequences are severe.  Sufferers find themselves having difficulty with daily activities, such as eating and speaking.  Bone loss can also occur in areas of prosthetic joints or teeth, which is a major cause of implant failure, often leading to additional procedures which can be painful and expensive.  It’s no wonder that with such consequences, scientists have been studying a way to create a better dental implant that can actually improve bone growth.  Researchers from the UCLA School of Dentistry, the UCLA Department of Bioengineering and Northwestern University believe they may have developed a solution to this problem using tiny diamonds, as reported in a recent Health Canal article.

Nanodiamonds are the byproducts of conventional mining and refining operations and have been found to promote bone growth as well as improve the durability of dental implants.  Conventional bone repair operations involve the insertion of a sponge through invasive surgery that locally administers proteins that promote bone growth to the affected area.  Researchers have recently found that the tiny diamonds, not seen by the naked human eye, can deliver the same proteins more effectively.  The unique soccer-ball-like surface actually delivers proteins more slowly, allowing the affected area to be treated for a longer period of time and can be done so non-invasively through an injection or oral rinse.  After several comprehensive clinical trials, the particles have been found to be safe and show great potential in not only oral surgery, but orthopedic and regenerative medicine as well.

The study was led by Dr. Dean Ho, a professor of oral biology and medicine and co-director of the Jane and Jerry Weintraub Center for Reconstructive Biotechnology at the UCLA School of Dentistry.  Ho, a pioneer in the field, has also shown that nanodiamonds can be effectively used in the treatment of multiple forms of cancer.  The study, partially supported by the National Cancer Institute, examined whether nanodiamonds might help treat bone loss commonly caused by chemotherapy.  Results show significant potential of the nanodiamonds in improving patient care, further supporting the claim that these tiny particles may change the face to regenerative medicine in the not-so-distant future.

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