More Fun than a Root Canal; November 1993; Scientific American Magazine; by W. Wayt Gibbs; 1 Page(s)
At last, biotechnology for the masses. Less noble perhaps than gene therapy for a rare disease, less impressive than a cure for cancer, Creative BioMolecules¿s latest product, if it works, may nonetheless make many people smile. The Hopkinton, Mass., company is now testing in humans a protein-laced compound that in monkeys seems to rescue teeth doomed to certain root canal.
The death of a tooth is an all-too-familiar experience. When decay or a blow punches a hole through both the hard, mineralized layers of enamel and dentin, the exposed pulp, home to blood vessels and exquisitely sensitive nerves, can become infected. Badly abscessed teeth, still beyond the help of medicine, must be pulled. But when naked pulp is caught before infection has become too deeply entrenched, traditional dentistry can save the tooth--for a price reckoned in dollars and winces. Sucking the pulp out of the root canal and replacing it with gutta- percha or something similar kills the tooth but preserves its function. The American Dental Association estimates that this safe but rather ghastly procedure was performed 13 million times in 1991.