You have probably seen headlines across the internet discussing new a newly invented dental filling that stimulates stem cells within the teeth. Researchers at The University of Nottingham and Harvard University came together and created this material that is proposed to change the face of dentistry. While this discovery has huge implications for dental care, many articles oversell its proposed abilities.
In discussing how this material is supposed to work, it is important to understand the anatomic structure of teeth. Every tooth has three general layers: enamel, dentin and pulp tissue. The enamel is mostly mineral and happens to be the hardest structure in the human body. It is also the layer most resistant to tooth decay. Beneath the enamel lies the softer and porous inner dentin. The pulp tissue is the innermost layer that contains nerves, blood supply and stem cells. These new fillings rely on changing the pulp's response to trauma and inflammation.
Unfortunately, dental pulp tissue is not very resilient. Trauma, extreme temperatures, deep fillings and bacteria can all cause the pulp to become inflamed and/or die, necessitating a root canal. However, if the attack is moving slowly enough, the pulp may shrink itself by laying down new dentin and "move away" from the irritating source. The new filling material hopes to capitalize on this mechanism when placing deep fillings near the pulp tissue. Instead of causing the nerve to die, the substance hopes to induce the tooth to lay down more dentin, creating a safe and natural barrier between the tooth and filling.
It is important to understand that (by design) this material is not an end-all solution to cavities and root canals. For starters, it would have little benefit over traditional fillings when used in shallow cavities far from the pulp. It would also not be of use in teeth that need root canals due to fracture, trauma or decay that extends entirely to the pulp. Many times, teeth need root canals not due to deep fillings that aggravate the pulp tissues, but rather because the bacteria have travelled through the enamel and dentin and have infected the inner tooth. Once the pulp comes in contact with outside microbes, it will almost certainly need a complete root canal treatment.
Still, this new material has wonderful applications in the modern dental office. Many fillings that were previously given with a questionable prognosis can now be provided with increased likelihood of success. Likewise, this invention paves the road for future regenerative dental technologies. Who knows what the future holds in store! For more information on these new fillings and how they work, feel free to give our office a call or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org