A discovery by the UCLA School of Dentistry and the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science may improve outcomes and reduce the risk of infection for people who undergo root canals.
Researchers at the schools found in clinical trials that nanodiamonds provided protection against bacteria for disinfected root canals. This protection reduced the risk of root canal failure and increased the chance of the patient making a full recovery.
Small, But Strong
Nanodiamonds are diamond particles 20 times smaller than a strand of hair – so tiny that millions of them can fit on the head of a pin.
During the study, the California scientists mixed nanodiamonds and gutta-percha, the thermoplastic filling material used by dentists to fill empty root canals.
During a root canal, the dentist removes the pulp and roots of the affected tooth and then disinfects the empty root canals. Then, the dentist pushes the gutta-percha into the disinfected root canal to fill the hollow space. The filling material serves to block bacteria from invading the tooth, but there is a risk that the material may break down during the procedure. If the dentist does not correctly place the gutta-percha, air pockets can develop in the tooth.
The nanodiamond gutta-percha mixture was tested in three individuals having root canal procedures and was confirmed to be more resistant to breaking than gutta-percha alone.
Adding nanodiamonds to the gutta-percha mixture also eliminated the creation of air pockets in the tooth.
All the individuals who received the nanodiamond gutta-percha mixture healed without complications.
Improving Procedures, Improving Outcomes
“Improving outcomes for root canal patients means less pain, reduced risk of infection and reduced tooth loss,” said Dr. Stefania Caracioni, D.D.S., L.V.I.F.
Caracioni practices dentistry in Topeka, Kansas.
The root canal procedure is necessary for individuals with severely decayed or infected teeth.
Root canals have a 95 percent success rate, but the risk of failure increases if the bacteria inside the tooth is not entirely removed.
“To achieve the best results, it is critical that the area is thoroughly cleaned to destroy bacteria. Some patients require oral antibiotics, in addition to the antimicrobial agents used during the procedure, to completely eradicate the infection before sealing the tooth,” Caracioni said.
If the dentist does not completely kill all the bacteria in a tooth and the tooth is sealed, air pockets develop because of a failure in the gutta-percha, and the bacteria trapped in the tooth can flourish and infect the tooth all over again.
“Most people do not realize their tooth is once again infected until they have throbbing or intense pain because of an abscess,” Caracioni said.
Other complications include damage to bone and gum tissue, tooth loss, and severe health complications if the infection reaches the bloodstream and travels to other parts of the body.
In addition to their potential for improving root canals, nanodiamonds have been studied by researchers around the world to determine how they can improve other medical treatments.
Nanodiamonds are currently being used to treat cancer patients because of their ability to deliver life-saving medicine that patients usually reject.
Nanodiamonds are also used in regenerative medicine therapies and bone repair, which makes dentists like Caracioni hopeful about future treatments for cases of osteonecrosis, a severe loss of bone tissue in the jaw.
Nanodiamonds could also be useful in repairing tooth decay and damaged bone tissue that happens as a result of peri-implantitis, an infection that occurs when dental implants fail.
“The possibilities for how nanodiamonds could help repair damage and strengthen teeth are endless,” Caracioni said.
University of California – Los Angeles Health Sciences. “Nanodiamonds show promise for aiding recovery from root canal: In clinical trial, team uses biomaterials embedded with tiny gems to help tissue heal.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 October 2017.