There’s a reason why root canals rank right up there on the list of dental work people want to avoid at all costs. A dentist performs this not-so-pleasant procedure when the innermost layer of the tooth known as the pulp–which contains all the blood vessels and nerve cells–becomes so infected that the only way to save the tooth is to scrape out the infected tissue. Then the dentist seals the tooth with a new filling and crown.
There are a number of reasons why the pulp becomes infected in the first place, but in 10 percent of cases, it’s because the original filling didn’t do its job to stop the decay. Other reasons include tooth injuries, or a tooth that’s had too much dental work done on it, which weakens the enamel and the layer beneath it known as the dentin making it easier for bacteria to spread to the pulp.
But now, thanks to a new breakthrough, experts think root canals will become a thing of the past. Scientists from the University of Nottingham in the U.K. and Harvard University have created a new biomaterial that allows the tooth to repair itself. Normal fillings just plug up the decay; this material actually stimulates stem cells in the pulp tissue so that it can form a new and stronger layer of dentin to keep bacteria out.
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Right now, the procedure is still in its early stages. But the scientists who created it hope to test it on humans in the near future.
via IFL Science