Can nanotechnology replace dental fillings?

Last week many media outlets reported that nanotechnology made a gel that can regenerate teeth and make dental fillings obsolete. Is this true?

Root canal instrumentsA group of French scientists within the field of nanotechnology recently made big headlines all over the world, when they published a study about a nanotechnology gel that could regenerate teeth. The research was by several media outlets interpreted to mean that dental fillings would soon be made obsolete by this new breakthrough in nanotechnology. It was reported that the gel could just be added to the cavity of the tooth and that the tooth would then repair itself without ever needing a filling. Is this true? Is nanotechnology really this close to replacing dental fillings as the primary treatment of tooth cavities?

The fact of the matter in this case is that nanotechnology is not about to replace dental fillings. The research was about how to regenerate the pulp inside the tooth and not the crown itself. The pulp of the tooth consists of nerves and blood vessels. It is a live tissue in contrast to the tooth enamel which consists of approximately 96% inorganic material. Sometimes the dental pulp becomes infected due to deep cavities or trauma. When the dental pulp becomes infected it will start to die and so far the only treatment of this condition has been to remove the dental pulp and replace it with a soft material called gutta-percha. After such a root canal treatment the tooth will be dead and is now weaker than before. It will often be necessary to protect the now more fragile tooth with a dental crown to prevent it from breaking or cracking.

What the French nanotechnology researchers might have discovered is a way to regenerate the dying pulp so that the tooth won’t have to die. By using a multilayered, nano-sized film — only 1/50,000th the thickness of a human hair containing a substance called alpha melanocyte stimulating hormone, or alpha-MSH the nanotechnology scientists have proved that they can fight inflammation and increase the number of dental pulp fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are the cells inside the dental pulp that regenerate the pulp fibres and are the main type of cell found in dental pulp.

Hopefully this new breakthrough within nanotechonology – which has so far only been tested on laboratory rats – will in time reduce the need for root canal therapy.

Scientific research: Tooth extraction for preventing displaced canines in children?

Is tooth extraction effective in preventing adult canines from erupting in the wrong place? A new study by Cochrane researchers brings new information about the scientific basis for tooth extraction of baby canines.

Braces on teenagerIs tooth extraction effective in preventing adult canines from erupting in the wrong place? A new study by Cochrane researchers brings new information about the practice of tooth extraction of baby canines.

Why consider tooth extraction?

The adult canine teeth (tooth number 3 from the middle) erupt around the age of 12. In 2-3% of all 12-year-olds the canine tooth erupts in the wrong place – in the roof of the mouth. It has been of great concern to dentists to prevent the canines from erupting in the wrong place, since this can cause damage to the neighbouring teeth or cause unfavourable movement of these teeth. For many years extraction of the baby canines been the practice of dentists in order to make way for the adult canine teeth. But does tooth extraction prevent displaced canines?

Is tooth extraction effective?

According to the Cochrane review there is no substantial scientific evidence that extraction of the baby canine teeth will prevent displaced eruption of the adult canine tooth. “The recommendation of extracting the baby canine is in fact based on one uncontrolled study that was carried out over twenty years ago,” says one of the authors of the study. The study seemed to prove that tooth extraction makes way for the adult canines, but since there was no control group in the study, the evidence is not conclusive.

Is tooth extraction ineffective, then?

The absence of evidence, however, does not necessarily mean that tooth extraction is not an effective method. The study concludes that there is a need to improve the quality of the research on the question of whether or not tooth extraction can be recommended in order to help the canine teeth erupt correctly.

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