3D printing may revolutionise root canal therapy

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Researchers have created 3D-printed artificial blood vessels that could revolutionise root canal therapy to help people retain fully functioning teeth.

A team headed up by Professor Luiz Bertassoni—who leads the Bertassoni Lab at Oregon Health and Science University and the Bioengineering Laboratory in the Faculty of Dentistry, University of Sydney—published the breakthrough earlier this month in Scientific Reports.

The paper describes how based on previous work fabricating artificial capillaries, the researchers placed a fibre mould made of sugar molecules across the root canal of extracted human teeth and injected a material similar to proteins found in the body filled with dental pulp cells.

They then removed the fibre to make a long microchannel in the root canal and inserted endothelial cells isolated from the interior lining of blood vessels. After seven days, dentin-producing cells appeared near the tooth walls and artificial blood vessels formed inside the tooth.

Professor Bertassoni said the research proves “that fabrication of artificial blood vessels can be a highly effective strategy for fully regenerating the function of the teeth”.

Current root canal treatment involves removing infected dental tissues and replacing them with synthetic biomaterials covered by a protective crown, which often results in further decay over time.

“This process eliminates the tooth’s blood and nerve supply, rendering it lifeless and void of any biological response or defence mechanism,” Professor Bertassoni said.

“Without this functionality, adult teeth may be lost much sooner, which can result in much greater concerns, such as the need for dentures or dental implants.

“We believe that this finding may change the way that root canal treatments are done in the future,” he said.

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