Could microscopic metal particles hold the key to a novel endodontic treatment method? These tiny nanoparticles could be used to deliver medications deep into a tooth, says Chris Choi, DMD, a prosthodontics resident at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. Choi recently received a $6,000 grant from the American College of Prosthodontists Education Foundation to examine the implications of using nanoparticles to transport medications into tooth pulp.
The pulp, the soft tissue deep within the root canal system in the center of a tooth, is protected by hard layers of dentin and enamel. When pulp becomes infected or inflamed, an endodontist often treats it by removing the pulp, cleaning the root canal system and then filling and sealing the space. In the case of inflammation, for example, a root canal procedure is often the only option, Choi explains.
Choi, working with research mentor Radi Masri, DDS, MS, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Endodontics, Prosthodontics and Operative Dentistry, is testing the delivery of anti-inflammatory medications through microscopic dentinal tubules within a tooth. For his study, Choi will apply metallic nanoparticles containing anti-inflammatory medication to a prepared rat tooth, and then use magnets to draw the tiny particles through microscopic tubules within the tooth. Choi will then measure changes in inflammation. If the medication is successfully delivered through the tooth into the pulp, it should help reduce the inflammation. “It is exciting to be on the cutting-edge, using nanotechnology, but also combining that technology with a simple tool like a magnet to enhance the delivery,” Choi explains.
Masri laid the groundwork for this area of research through in vitro studies. This latest study is the first step before designing and implementing studies in larger animals and humans, Choi says. He is currently fine-tuning his research model and, armed with this grant, he will soon begin buying materials to start the project. “I will get to see how this procedure might actually translate clinically, and that is very exciting,” says Choi.
Nanoparticles are a hot topic in many areas of health care research, Choi says, and he is eager to explore their applications in reducing hypersensitivity, as well as potentially reducing the need for aggressive endodontic and prosthodontic procedures. This experience has convinced him that research is critical to the advancement of the dental profession. “I have realized that to be a complete clinician, I need to have a research knowledge base,” says Choi. “Going through the entire research process myself, I think it will make me a better clinician because I will be able to think more critically.”