Newly engineered blood vessels for the teeth may improve long-term outcomes for root canal patients.
Researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University have developed a new procedure that could help the 15 million patients that annually get root canals in the U.S. maintain the health of their teeth as the years go by.
During a root canal, clinicians currently remove the infected dental tissues and replace it with synthetic biomaterials covered by a protective crown.
“This process eliminates the tooth’s blood and nerve supply, rendering it lifeless and void of any biological response or defense mechanism,” principal investigator Luiz Bertassoni, D.D.S., Ph.D., assistant professor of restorative dentistry in the OHSU School of Dentistry, and assistant professor of biomedical engineering in the OHSU School of Medicine, said in a statement. “Without this functionality, adult teeth may be lost much sooner, which can result in much greater concerns, such as the need for dentures or dental implants.”
The research team used a 3D printing-inspired process to improve this process.
They placed a fiber mold made of sugar molecules across the root canal of extracted human teeth and injected a gel-like material—similar to the proteins found in the body—filled with dental pulp cells.
Dental pulp is a highly vascularized, innervated, unmineralized connective tissue that occupies a chamber and long canal in the center of a semi-permeable tissue structure constituted of dentin tubules and mineralized matrix, spanning from the root apex through the crown.
They then removed the fiber to make a long microchannel in the root canal and inserted endothelial cells isolated from the interior lining of blood vessels.
The following a week, the dentin-producing cells proliferated near the tooth walls and artificial blood vessels formed inside the tooth.
“This result proves that fabrication of artificial blood vessels can be a highly effective strategy for fully regenerating the function of teeth,” Bertassoni said. “We believe that this finding may change the way that root canal treatments are done in the future.”
The study was published in Scientific Reports.