It might be hard to imagine a world without root canals, but researchers at UB’s School of Dental Medicine have made a breakthrough. Instead of shaving and replacing teeth, they’re researching a way to regrow gums with dental lasers.
According to a 2019 report, tooth decay is the most common health condition faced by people worldwide the general burden of disease.
This fact has motivated Praveen Arany, assistant professor of oral biology, who has researched in the field of dental health for over 20 years, to now find ways to heal wounds and regenerate tissues using lasers in dentistry and beyond.
Through his 15 structured laser research courses, including PER 841: Intro to Lasers in Dentistry, and the informal observations he offers, Arany and his colleagues provide a platform for students to explore how lasers can be used to teach medicine and… advancing dentistry.
In its labs, students focus on ways to improve clinical outcomes for root canals, diabetes, the aging process, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), wounds, and whatever else students are curious enough to study.
Arany’s passion for this research grew out of the recognition that dental health plays an important role in overall health.
“They keep saying that the mouth is the mirror of your soul, right? The rest of your body?” said Arany. “Dental disease has been shown to cause all sorts of other systemic problems. It makes your diabetes worse. There’s some new literature showing it may contribute to Alzheimer’s, and you name it. I mean, there are so many examples of chronic human diseases that are related to good oral hygiene and we recognize that now.”
When it comes to the research of Arany and his colleagues, there are two main focuses: finding ways to use lasers to improve current medical procedures and developing new medical solutions to improve health like never before.
Using lasers to improve current medical procedures
A winning smile can do a lot for many people’s self-confidence. But teeth break and decay, which can lead to root canal treatment and the replacement of natural teeth – an alternative to root canal treatment would allow patients to keep their real teeth.
Arany and his research colleagues believe they have found a new solution.
Currently, doctors remove the damaged or infected pulp and place a filling to prevent root canal treatment. They will then wait three to six months hoping they can heal the tissue, Arany said.
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Arany and his colleagues would instead use a laser treatment and then do a smart fill. You envision the process taking two or three treatments over the course of a week or two. They would then decide if their treatment worked or if the patient needed a root canal.
Arany’s treatment is more cost-effective, especially when you consider the cost of a crown, any implant, and the root canal itself.
“It’s a little bit more likely than your normal treatment, but you save all that money and you have the benefit of keeping that normal tooth in its place, which you wouldn’t have with everyone else,” Arany said.
The new procedure would also work for doctors. Because the solution is faster, they would have the potential to see more patients.
The alternative has not yet been fully tested. Arany said the research was very successful in the animals tested, but his researchers have yet to conduct a human clinical trial, for which they still need funding.
Innovative new medical solutions to advance modern healthcare
Can light make people more resilient?
This is a major focus of the research of Arany and his colleague.
And based on their research, the answer to that question is a resounding yes.
Arany and his colleagues have conducted studies that found that the right amount of light at the right time can improve a person’s health.
“Now we know that if you get out in the sun too much and get a tan, especially if you have pale skin, it leads to sun damage,” Arany said. “But at the molecular level, the right amount of light can actually reverse this effect, [reversing the aging process]and that is the most exciting part of this research.”
Your endeavors and breakthroughs don’t end here.
For example, in one of the labs, a Brazilian student is trying to discover a cure for diabetes by using lasers on diabetic lesions.
Khrystyna Adam, a senior with a major in Life Sciences and a minor in Pharmacology and Toxicology, serves as a teaching assistant on some of the courses Arany teaches.
“It’s just crazy to me that to begin with there was no knowledge of dental lasers and now in 2022 lasers are everywhere, like in dental offices,” says Adam. “About COVID-19 [pandemic when] I worked as a dental assistant, my dentist bought a dental laser and she performs procedures. She only has positive things to say about dental lasers.”
“I recently started a study with Arany, where [we are] Use of dental lasers to detect caries.”
Problems for which medical professionals have not found a cure for decades, if not centuries, could be solved in the next few years if human clinical trials go well for Arany and his colleagues.
These faculty and students not only explore and shape the future of medicine, but also find their passions and serve their communities while doing so.
“UB Dental has a reputation for giving back to the community,” said Adams. “When I personally apply to dental schools, UB Dental is my number one choice because they are so well known for their outreach, they always give back to the Buffalo community.”
AJ Franklin is an Assistant Feature Editor and can be reached at [email protected]
Photo: Magnus Lunay/Unsplash