New Device Aims to Help Prevent Root Canal Treatments from Failing

March 29, 2017
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

British researchers have come up with a bacterial detection system for root canal treatments. In early trials, the system seems to be effective. Currently, the failure rate for root canals from secondary bacterial infections is one in four. SafeRoot, the new system, can detect bacteria in as little as three minutes.

A research team at King’s College London has created a new device, the SafeRoot, to help detect bacterial infections present inside teeth during root canal treatments. The team hopes that, if further testing of the device is successful, SafeRoot could usher in a new era in dentistry where the risk of the root canals failing is minimized and there is no need for follow-up appointments.

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SafeRoot was created to help detect any bacteria that is present inside a tooth after completion of a root canal procedure, before the tooth is filled. Using paper point sampling, florescent dyes, and florescence microscopy and spectroscopy, the device can detect trace amounts of residual live bacteria in the root canal space. During clinical trials, SafeRoot was shown to be effective at detecting bacteria in as little as three minutes.

Currently, almost a quarter of all root canal treatments fail over time because of secondary bacterial infections. Most treatments require at least one or two visits to a dental provider for the work to be completed.

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

Since SafeRoot allows for the detection of bacteria inside the root canal itself, dentists can use the device to confirm the procedure has been successful. This confirmation could also reduce the need for tooth extraction or other surgical intervention at a later date.

Tim Watson, another professor at the Dental Institute at King’s College London, says, “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.”

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