Endodontists are fond of emphasizing that endodontic therapies such as root canals preserve your natural teeth, allowing you to chew, speak and eat without the downsides that come with dentures or other forms of dental restorations. Most current endodontic therapy preserves the outside of a natural tooth by placing a crown over it, while replacing the failing nerve and pulp in the canals with the latex filling gutta-percha.
However, one of the most exciting developments in professional endodontics in the past generation has been research into regenerative endodontic therapy. Instead of replacing the nerve pulp with an inert substance, this groundbreaking treatment creates and delivers healthy living tissue to replace diseased, missing or traumatized pulp.
Endodontists who are at the forefront of this research combine their knowledge of pulp biology, the proper care of dental trauma, and tissue engineering to accomplish this task. The body’s own existing cells or bioactive materials are inserted in the pulp chamber to stimulate regrowth. A related procedure, apexification, employs similar methods to grow a dentin-like substance over the apex (tip) of the tooth root, in order to improve the chances of a traditional root canal treatment succeeding when the death of the pulp in a developing adult tooth has left an open apex.
Endodontic practitioners measure the success of regenerative endodontic therapy by its ability to achieve the following treatment goals:
- Elimination of symptoms
- Increased root wall thickness and/or root length
- Positive response to pulp vitality testing
While this technique is still evolving, endodontists are following the progress of its development with great interest.
“Regenerative endodontic therapy opens the door to transforming how we approach saving natural teeth,” says Dr. Susan L. Wood, an endodontist in private practice with the Phoenix Endodontic Group. “It truly may lead to a clinical situation in which we facilitate the body healing itself.”