[Image above] UCLA professor Dean Ho. Credit: Brian Lozano; UCLA Dentistry

Nanodiamonds may be small, but don’t underestimate their mightiness.

Scientists have found these microscopic diamond particles useful for many applications. Nanodiamonds have been known to prevent dendrite formation in batteries. They play a role in filling cavities. They’ve also been used in pastes, gels, and makeup.

In a collaboration between UCLA School of Dentistry and UCLA Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, researchers have discovered that nanodiamonds can also prevent infection after a root canal.

“Harnessing the unique properties of nanodiamonds in the clinic may help scientists, doctors, and dentists overcome key challenges that confront several areas of health care, including improving lesion healing in oral health,” professor of oral biology and medicine Dean Ho says in a UCLA news release.

Ho, a leading expert on the subject, has been working with oncologists, cancer biologists, materials scientists, mechanical engineers, and chemists for more than 10 years, exploring nanodiamonds for a number of applications, including drug delivery and chemotherapy.

Several factors contribute to the failure of endodontic treatment, including presence of bacteria in areas of the canal and a poor seal after the root canal procedure. Bacteria can leak and cause infection in the tooth, especially when gutta percha, a typical filling, is used. One study found that a little less than one-third (30.4%) of canal filling material failed. Some dentists even refuse to perform root canals due to risks of infection.

And out of all dental procedures, the root canal is the most dreaded. Many people fear the procedure for various reasons.

In a clinical trial using standard procedures for performing a root canal, Ho and his team found that by using a filling mixture of nanodiamonds embedded with gutta percha (NDGP), the composite resisted breaking and cracking. And patients healed perfectly, experiencing no pain or infection after their root canals.

Schematic of a nanodiamond particle. Credit: Dong-Keun Lee; Dean Ho Laboratory

The trial was a culmination of research that began two years ago, where the scientists also explored bacteria prevention using nanodiamonds loaded with the antibiotic amoxicillin.

“This trial confirms the immense promise of using nanodiamonds to overcome barriers for a range of procedures, from particularly challenging endodontics cases to orthopedics, tissue engineering, and others,” UCLA dentistry’s Jack Weichman Professor of Endodontics Mo Kang says in the release.

Ho also believes that nanodiamonds could eventually help avoid drug resistance in cancer and improve MRI efficiency. “This work was a key milestone for the nanodiamond field and broader nanomedicine community, since bringing a nanomaterial into the clinic represents a culmination of many years of characterization and safety/efficacy validation,” Ho states in an email.

The results of this study might put many dental patients’ fears of the dreaded root canal to rest. As well as those dentists who refuse to perform them.

The paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, is “Clinical validation of a nanodiamond-embedded thermoplastic biomaterial” (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1711924114/-/DCSupplemental).

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