The New and Improved Root Canal

***UPDATED: June 24, 2017*** A new development in root canal therapy promises a more effective treatment with longer-lasting results. According to a recent article from the Dental Tribune, more than 15 million root canal therapies are completed every year in the United States. The current treatment is effective in saving a tooth, but can cause it to become brittle and susceptible to fracture over time. To address this issue, a team of researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) used a 3-D printing process to create blood vessels. A fiber mold is placed across the root canal and a gel-like material, similar to proteins found in the body, is injected. The mold is then removed, creating a microchannel in the root canal. Cells from the created blood vessels are then inserted. In the study, after seven days, cells producing dentin proliferated in the tooth and artificial blood vessels formed.

“This result proves that fabrication of artificial blood vessels can be a highly effective strategy for fully regenerating the function of teeth,” said Dr. Luiz E. Bertassoni, principal investigator and assistant professor from the OHSU School of Dentistry. “We believe that this finding may change the way that root canal treatments are done in the future.”

Dental phobias, or fear of visiting the dentist, stems often from the misconception that pain will most likely be involved.  For example, when many people think of having a root canal, they immediately imagine excruciating pain both during and after the procedure.  There was a time when this was indeed the case, however with the help of new and improved instruments and technology, root canals can be virtually painless as well as highly efficient.  Dental Health Magazine’s article, “Root Canal Therapy Then & Now: Treatments, Materials and Technology Used,” describes the improvements made to the common procedure.

A root canal is the treatment used to repair, and often times, save a tooth that has become badly infected.  During the procedure the nerve and pulp, or soft inner area of a tooth, is removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned and sealed.  There are a number of reasons why a root canal may be required.  The nerve and pulp of a tooth may become irritated and infected due to deep decay, a crack or chip in the tooth, or repeated dental procedures.  Significant pain when chewing, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, discoloration, and swelling are all signs that you may need a root canal.

In the past, the numbing agent Lidocaine, or Novocaine, had been used to decrease any pain that was experienced during the procedure.  While this form of anesthesia is still often used, for those with a low threshold for pain or extreme fear or anxiety, an array of alternative, more effective anesthetics are available through sedation dentistry.  Additionally, improvements in the instruments used have been implemented to further decrease pain.  The inflexibility of the older, stainless steel root canal file often caused difficult removal of the pulp, resulting in additional discomfort.  New tools, made of titanium, are flexible, allowing the instrument to follow the shape of the root canal closely, further eliminating discomfort.  Dentist can also use newer technology to determine the depth of the filling required for a more efficient and effective treatment.  Apex locators, which use sound wave technology, are more accurate than the dental X-ray previously used.  Developments in procedures coupled with the popular practice of sedation dentistry has allowed for nearly painless experiences in common dental treatments, making it unnecessary for the fear of pain to keep anyone from visiting their dentist.

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