Thanks to nanotechnology, you'll never have a root canal again!

A new dental therapy could repair damaged nerves inside teeth, making root canals a thing of the past. And it's all done with an ultrathin layer of nanofilm.

Currently, there's only one way for dentists to deal with infection or inflammation inside teeth, and anyone who has had a root canal can tell you it's not much fun. Root canals are the only way to deal with damage to the pulp, which is the soft tissue inside teeth that houses nerve endings and blood vessels, and they "solve" the problem by essentially killing the tooth. It's a costly, painful procedure that doesn't actually cure the pain so much as permanently deaden it. Needless to say, dentists have been looking for a better way.

The nano-sized film contains a substance called alpha melanocyte stimulating hormone, or alpha-MSH, which is known for its ability to fight inflammation. A team of European scientists placed the alpha-MSH-coated film onto fibroblasts, the primary kind of cell in dental pulp. The film significantly reduced inflammation on the fibroblasts, and it even promoted new fibroblasts to start growing. Dentists believe this could be the breakthrough they've been waiting for that will allow them to revitalize other damaged teeth, avoiding the need to ever do a root canal.

Still, are we the only ones that see what's really going on here? This nano-revitalization probably will cost just as much as a root canal, and here's the kicker: once your tooth is back to normal, what's to stop it from getting infected all over again? If dentists play their cards right, they're going to go from performing a few dozen root canals every year to a few hundred anti-root-canals. Not that I'm irrationally distrustful of dentists or anything...

[ACS Nano]