If you needed a major dental procedure, would you find it odd if your dentist was to finish the job with a piece of tree? This was the case many years ago, and though the method has evolved significantly, it can still be the case today with some types of dental procedures. In 16th century Japan, entire sets of dentures were carved entirely out of wood. The practicality of wooden teeth would be open to debate, and of course prosthetic teeth in this day and age are made of acrylic resin, metal, porcelain, or ceramic. However, there's another dental procedure designed to save a tooth that can use a tree extract. So how do trees come into the picture when you need a root canal?

The Removal of Infected Dental Pulp

Root canals involve the removal of infected dental pulp (the nerves inside the tooth). This will alleviate the pain that is common with such an infection while preventing any further degradation to the tooth and surrounding tissues. And yet, rather logically, wouldn't you think that a hollow tooth with its internal pulp removed would be a weakened tooth?

Creating a Hollow

The removal of the infected dental pulp is known as a pulpectomy. Your dentist removes the tip of the tooth in question before extracting the pulp. This creates a hollow internal section of the tooth, and it's here that a tree extract comes into play. Have you heard of gutta-percha? It's a product derived from the palaquium gutta tree (although other related varieties can also produce the necessary results).

The Usage of Gutta-Percha

The gutta-percha that is used in dentistry resembles a type of rubber that can be injected into the tooth. It's non-reactive to the human body, meaning that it's viewed as bio-compatible. It's also extremely durable. When receiving a root canal, gutta-percha fills the void left by the dental pulp, before the tooth is sealed with dental cement. A dental crown can then be added to create a new, durable tip for the tooth.


Your dentist will discuss your available options when it comes to a root canal. While gutta-percha is commonplace, some patients might benefit more from a biodegradable polyester (polycaprolactone) known as Resilon when used in dentistry.

Certainly, you would have to go back centuries to find literal pieces of tree used in dentistry, but it's interesting to think that even in modern times, part of the solution to your dental issues might be growing in a forest.