Pulpitis, is an inflammation of the dental pulp deep within the tooth, most often experienced as a sharp pain when eating ice cream or having a cold drink. Usually treatment involves the dreaded root canal procedure to remove the damaged pulp. Depireux and Masri’s research could give dental practitioners a much less invasive treatment option. The pair are developing a new, patent-pending technique to deliver medication directly into the center of a tooth.
The research uses strong magnetic fields to move medication-coated, magnetic nanoparticles through the tooth's dentin and into the pulp. Dentin, a solid substance that encases the pulp, is surrounded by a harder-than-bone layer of enamel. "When you have a cavity, usually the enamel has been damaged and the dentin is exposed, so when you eat or drink, it will stimulate the fluid within the dentinal tubules and cause pain," Masri explained.
The researchers are using tubules, the microscopic channels that travel through the dentin into the tooth pulp, as the vehicles to deliver the inflammation-reducing or antibiotic medication. They have designed a system of magnetic arrays effective for upper or lower teeth. By manipulating a series of cube-shaped magnets, they can control the magnetic field so the nanoparticles are pulled through the tubules into the tooth pulp. This is a two-year, $450,000 grant.