Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

New device detects bacteria during root canal treatment

LONDON, UK: A new method of detecting bacteria during root canal therapy could eradicate the need for follow-up appointments and prevent treatment failure, according to a new study. The SafeRoot device, created by a team of researchers at King’s College London, enables rapid bacterial detection inside the root canal, ensuring the procedure has been successful and reducing the need for tooth extraction or surgical intervention.

During root canal treatments, bacterial infections are removed from the root canal space while as much of the natural tooth as possible is retained. Around a quarter of these treatments fail over time owing to secondary infections, and most procedures require one or two visits to the dentist, each of which involves drilling and the removal of part of the tooth.

The SafeRoot device was developed to detect any existing bacteria once the root canal treatment has been completed, with the aim of eliminating persistent or secondary infections and reducing the need for further treatments. Through fluorescent staining and microspectroscopy, it can optically detect minute amounts of residual live bacteria in the root canal space. During trials, the research team was able to successfully detect bacterial cells after just 3 minutes of testing.

Using conventional sterile endodontic paper points, the process is performed during the treatment, preventing any impact on clinical treatment time and minimising additional clinical steps.

“The resilient nature of bacteria, combined with often complex root canal structures, makes disinfection challenging, leading to a considerable number of persistent infections. This is one of the main causes of root canal treatment failures,” explained Dr Francesco Mannocci, Professor of Endodontology at King’s College London Dental Institute.

“SafeRoot will reduce the time for root canal completion and will increase the success rate of treatments by letting the dentist know when it’s safe to proceed with filling the tooth. This should produce fewer acute ‘flair-ups’ and failed root treatments, as any residual infection in the root canal will be identified,” said Dr Tim Watson, Professor of Biomaterials and Restorative Dentistry at the Dental Institute.

One million root canal treatments are performed under the National Health Service each year, costing £50.5 million. “The treatments are not only time consuming and painful for the patients, but cost the NHS a significant amount. If we can reduce the number of root canal treatments and re-treatments required, it could mean sizeable savings to the NHS,” added lead researcher Dr Frederic Festy from the Dental Institute.

“SafeRoot could be applied to a wide range of biological infections as well, ranging from wound or respiratory, to implant related infections and contaminations,” he said.

A study on the device, titled “Rapid bacterial detection during endodontic treatment”, was published on 1 February ahead of print in the Journal of Dental Research.

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