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Tissue Regenerating Tech Could Make Root Canals A Thing Of The Past

Treating an infection could become much less of a toothache.

Holly Large - Editorial Assistant

Holly Large

Holly Large - Editorial Assistant

Holly Large

Jr Copy Editor & Staff Writer

Holly is a graduate medical biochemist with an enthusiasm for making science interesting, fun and accessible.

Jr Copy Editor & Staff Writer

Edited by Laura Simmons
Laura Simmons - Editor and Staff Writer

Laura Simmons

Editor and Staff Writer

Laura is an editor and staff writer at IFLScience. She obtained her Master's in Experimental Neuroscience from Imperial College London.

dentist performing root canal treatment

Root canals are often used to treat pulpitis, an infection of the tissue at the center of the tooth.

Image credit: VanoVasaio/

Even if root canals can save our smiles, there’s no denying that having a dentist drill down into your tooth is not necessarily the most pleasant experience. But a solution may well be on the horizon – researchers are developing tissue-regenerating tech that could help avoid the dreaded drill.

Root canals can be used to treat pulpitis, an infection in the pulp, the soft tissue in the center of the tooth containing nerves, blood vessels, and specialized cells. Infections can kill off the pulp, which can cause a whole host of other problems. Treatment with root canals digs out the infected pulp, but a team of scientists from the Forsyth Institute sought to instead regenerate it, using a class of molecules called resolvins.


“Root canal therapy (RCT) is effective, but it does have some problems since you are removing significant portions of dentin, and the tooth dries out leading to a greater risk of fracture down the road,” said Thomas Van Dyke, who led the study, in a statement. “Our goal is to come up with a method for regenerating the pulp, instead of filling the root canal with inert material.”

Their candidate for that method was Resolvin E1 (RvE1), which is naturally produced by the body to control excess inflammation. In a series of experiments, RvE1 was applied to mouse dental pulp at different levels of infection and damage, ranging from reversible to severely infected and necrotic.

When applied directly to infected but living pulp, the researchers found that RvE1 was very effective at promoting its regeneration. However, regeneration wasn’t achieved when RvE1 was applied to severely infected and necrotic pulp – although it did effectively slow down the rate of infection and reduce inflammation.

The results might provide some hope for those who dread the idea of a root canal, but it will likely be a while before it reaches a dentist near you. Given that the study was carried out using pulp from mice, further research using human tissue will be necessary to determine if RvE1 is just as effective – and safe – to be used as treatment in humans.


The researchers are hopeful, however, that their technology could have a wide-ranging therapeutic impact. As Van Dyke explained: “Because application of RvE1 to dental pulp promotes formation of the type of stem cells that can differentiate into dentin (tooth), bone, cartilage or fat, this technology has huge potential for the field of regenerative medicine beyond the tissues in the teeth. It could be used to grow bones in other parts of the body, for instance.”

For now though, a root canal and gratitude for the existence of anesthetic it is.

The study is published in the Journal of Dental Research


healthHealth and Medicinehealthmedicine
  • tag
  • medicine,

  • teeth,

  • dentistry,

  • tissue regeneration,

  • root canal