Most people do whatever they can to keep their teeth healthy and strong. Simple tasks like brushing and flossy each day along with avoiding sugary foods can do wonders for your teeth. Even making sure you’re getting the right nutrients, like iodine, which the WHO says 72% of people are deficient in, can make a huge difference in not only your dental health, but your overall health as well. But unfortunately, teeth are not invincible and people may find themselves having to get painful and unpleasant procedures, like a root canal.
Root canals involve leaving a dead tooth behind with no living soft tissue, also called dental pulp. But thanks to today’s scientists, a peptide hydrogel has been developed that may help stimulate the growth of dental pulp after it’s removed for a procedure. Peter Nguyen, Ph.D. and Vivek Kumar, Ph.D., from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, made a significant breakthrough in developing a new hydrogel.
Kumar, lead researcher of the study, explained, “What you end up with after a root canal is a dead tooth. It’s no longer responsive. There are no nerve endings or vascular supply. So the tooth is very susceptible to subsequent infection and, ultimately, falling out.”
The researchers wanted to develop a material that could not only stimulate blood vessel growth, but could also stimulate angiogenesis, dentinogenesis, and the increase of dental pulp stem cells. Professor Kumar had recent success with injecting a hydrogel under the skin of mice and rats that helped stimulate blood vessel growth.
After seeing the success with the initial hydrogel, the research team decided to add a piece of protein to the mixture to help dental pulp stem cells multiply. In doing this, the realized the new hydrogel promoted the deposit of calcium phosphate crystals, which makes up tooth enamel.
Unfortunately, the initial tests showed that the hydrogel degraded after one to three weeks when injected into rats. So the researchers redesigned the peptide backbone to produce a more stable solution.
And while this development is quite a ways from being applicable in current dental procedures, any dental discover is amazing in today’s society. With the employment of dentists projected to increase by 19% between 2016 and 2026, more and more dental procedures will be done each and every day.
This research was presented at the 256th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Boston and researchers hope to move the hydrogel to human studies soon.