Could Root Canals Become a Thing of the Past?

Potentially, thanks to regenerative fillings developed by Harvard and the University of Nottingham.

Teeth

Photo via istock.com/Radu Bercan

Researchers from the Wyss Institute at Harvard University and the University of Nottingham must have heard your prayers. They’re at work on a technology that could make root canals obsolete.

Regenerative fillings developed by the researchers would spur stem cells to repair and regrow dentin, the hard substance that makes up most of teeth, and pulp tissue, where blood vessels and nerves are found. The researchers say the synthetic biomaterials would be an improvement over conventional fillings—which are actually toxic to the pulp—because they would heal teeth from within. Their use could change the way dental diseases are treated, and potentially eliminate or reduce the need for procedures such as root canals.

“These materials may provide an effective and practical approach to allow a patient to regenerate components of their own teeth,” Wyss Institute researcher David Mooney said in a statement. Mooney and other Wyss Institute scientists have been working with stem cells and regenerative dentistry for several years.

The technology, which would be used similarly to conventional fillings, won second place in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Technologies Competition this year. Still, it will likely be some time before it’s available for widespread use.

Until then, better stock up on toothpaste and floss.