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Diamonds May Add Luster to Future Smiles

Dec 03, 2015

By Dean George

A team of west coast researchers may have unearthed a future diamond in the rough for patients undergoing root canal treatment.

nanodiamonds and root canal therapy

Nanotechnology researchers from the UCLA School of Dentistry have found that using nanodiamonds, the byproducts of diamond refining and mining, could help overcome the shortcomings of the composite materials used in root canal procedures.

Nanotechnology, or molecular manufacturing, is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. In addition to dentistry, the use of nanodiamonds has also been explored in cancer therapy, imaging and regenerative medicine and other fields.

If clinical trials the next two years are successful, the UCLA Dentistry findings could have a significant impact on the 15 million root canal procedures performed annually in the United States and produce smiles that really sparkle.

During a root canal the vacant cavity left after the infected dental pulp is removed is filled with a composite material called gutta percha. Gutta percha is biocompatible, but is limited in warding off residual infection that sometimes occurs after a root canal. The rigidity of gutta percha also breaks down over time.

The UCLA Dentistry researchers tested two types of strengthened gutta percha: one reinforced with nanodiamonds and another strengthened with nanodiamonds injected with antibiotics. In both trials, the nanodiamonds particles were thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair.

In the first trial, micro-imaging showed the nanodiamonds filled the space as adequately as regular gutta percha. Small gaps still remained in the canal but the nanodiamonds would provide greater rigidity over time. A second test was conducted because S mutans bacteria could still grow in those small gaps and lead to eventual tooth loss.

In the second test the researchers enlisted the expertise of microbiologists and materials scientists to inject the nanodiamonds with amoxicillin, a common antibiotic that would combat infection in the small gaps. The two successfully combined prevented the bacteria growth, demonstrating enough progress to encourage upcoming clinical trials at UCLA during the next two years.

Are diamonds really forever, as a 1940’s ad slogan suggested? Only time will tell, but if the use of nanodiamonds in root canal treatment is any indication, they may add some luster to thousands of smiles in the not-so-distant future.

Source: newsroom.ucla.edu, forbes.com, WebMD.com
Photo source: azonano.com

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