For patients who have undergone the procedure known as a root canal, the fear and stress surrounding the procedure may not end when the procedure does. As many root canal patients have learned, often getting a root canal is not the final word in healing an infected tooth. That’s because in some cases, when the natural pulp of the tooth is removed, the tooth itself loses strength and may eventually break.
A root canal is performed by removing the infected tooth pulp from the tooth, and replacing that pulp with a synthetic pulp called gutta-percha. Though the gutta-percha is often a good enough substitute to make the root canal a success, it is simply not as good as the natural growing pulp found in your teeth. But now, scientists at Oregon Health & Science University have found a way to create new blood vessels in the teeth.
Though it is still in the development stages, this blood vessel could be a major step in extending the life of root canals. Dr. Stephen Hill performs root canals at his Allen, Texas practice. He believes synthetic blood vessels could help extend the life of both the root canal itself as well as the natural tooth.
"When you add synthetic pulp to a tooth, it’s like adding a filling. The tooth is nowhere near as strong as it is with actual living pulp," explained Hill. "But adding synthetic vessels could theoretically restore the tooth and regrow any damaged areas. This could possibly remove the need for a root canal and actually heal the tooth using your body’s own tooth pulp."
Though the testing and development of synthetic vessels are still in the early stages, the procedure is showing promising signs of success.
"I’d love to be able to tell my patients who thought they’d need a root canal that they can just regrow the inside of their tooth," said Hill. "This would be an amazing breakthrough if becomes widely available."