Pulpitis diagram

Nobody wants a root canal, but they’re generally still more desirable than the alternative, which is tooth loss or a painful infection that can spread to your brain and lungs, becoming fatal. Often, a root canal is the last ditch effort to save an infected or decayed tooth. But while root canals have been an effective tool in dentists’ arsenals for more than sixty years, they still aren’t perfect.

After the procedure is performed, the tooth can still become more fragile as time goes on, and may fracture. Luckily, new research into fabricated blood vessels could change all of this.

What is a Root Canal?

When the pulp inside the root of your tooth becomes infected, it’s a painful experience. You may experience extreme sensitivity to heat or cold, and it can be painful to chew. The pain may even spread from the tooth to other parts of the body. And of course, if that infection spreads, your overall health is put at risk.

A root canal is designed to clear out the infection and leave your tooth in tact. Your dentist will drill down into the root (or roots) of your tooth to remove infected pulp, and then the new space will be filled, and the entry point will be sealed off with a crown or filling. While a root canal is often tossed around in pop culture as a painful procedure, modern technology has made it essentially a painless procedure with manageable soreness during recovery.

Unfortunately, while a root canal can save a tooth that would otherwise need to be removed, it leaves your tooth defenseless. A root canal removes the blood supply and nerves from a tooth, which prevents it from exercising its natural defense mechanisms. This could lead to teeth fracturing or being lost sooner than they would have been without a root canal. If the natural tooth can be preserved for as long or longer than a dental implant, it will help keep the procedure a viable treatment option in the future. 

Researchers Fabricate Blood Vessels

Although root canals are an incredibly reliable procedure with a success rate over 90%, there’s still room for improvement. Researchers at the OHSU School of Dentistry recently tested a way to improve the long term health of teeth post-root canal.

Inspired by 3D printing, the team created artificial capillaries in a lab by fabricating a tooth pulp-like environment in a mold and adding endothelial cells from the lining of blood vessels. Over the course of a week, these cells formed new blood vessels inside the “tooth.”

If this technology proves reproducible and reliable, it could improve an already reliable procedure and keep teeth supplied with blood even post-root canal, extending that tooth’s life and giving it back its ability to defend itself against biological threats, hopefully without the risk of repeated infection.

Unfortunately, this technology is very new and experimental, and probably won’t be available in your dentist’s office for some time. And while root canals are a tried and true procedure, your teeth will be healthiest if they never have to go through one in the first place.

To avoid the need for root canals, it’s imperative to protect your teeth from infection. This is done with excellent oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist to ensure you’re on the right track. Make an appointment today: Call (803) 781-9090 or contact us online.