Root canals are already a very successful procedure, comparable to dental implants in their success rate. But when a root canal fails, the consequences can be serious. The tooth may be lost and, in rare cases, infection can spread from the tooth.

To try to avoid recurrent infections that can lead to root canal failure, though, researchers are developing a nanodiamond-laced filler material that will improve strength and antibacterial properties to the current material.

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Shortcomings of Current Root Canal Materials

In a root canal, the infected or pulp of the tooth–the innermost part of the tooth, containing the nerve–is removed. Then, before the tooth is covered with a protective crown,  the interior of the tooth is filled with one of several types of materials, the most common being gutta percha, a natural polymer that is unreactive and has good properties for pouring into the tooth and curing, as well as a similar flexibility to the natural pulp material.

But gutta percha has the limitation that it isn’t antibacterial, and if some of the infected material remains, then infection can spread through the tooth again, threatening the tooth and jawbone. Gutta percha is also not quite as rigid as might be desirable, since with tooth material being removed as part of the root canal, the tooth can use additional support. To provide necessary support, sometimes a post is added to the interior of the tooth as part of the root canal.

Both of these shortcomings can lead to the failure of a root canaled tooth.

Diamonds Are a Tooth’s Best Friend

But researchers at UCLA have proposed that combining traditional gutta percha with nanodiamonds and antibiotics could improve root canal results.

By filling actual human teeth and imaging them with micro-computed tomography (micro-CT), researchers showed that the new formulation was just as effective at filling a root canal as traditional gutta percha.

Next, researchers combined the diamonds with antibiotics, then blended the antibiotic-reinforced diamonds with gutta percha to show that it could effectively prevent infection of root canaled teeth.

Will It Be Expensive?

People think that diamonds are automatically expensive, but one of the benefits of nanodiamonds is that they’re a waste product produced as part of diamond mining, milling, and processing. That’s part of why they are being so extensively researched–they can be acquired without too much expense. There will likely be some small increase in cost, but the benefit of increased odds of success will be worth it.

In the meantime, traditional materials still work well for root canals. If you are in need of a root canal in Orange County, please call (949) 551-5902 for an appointment with a dentist at Rice Dentistry in Irvine.