What is Endodontics?
Endodontics is a branch of dentistry recognized by the American Dental Association involving treatment of the pulp (root canal) and surrounding tissues of the tooth. When you look at your tooth in the mirror, what you see is the crown. The rest of the tooth, the portion hidden beneath the gum line, is called the root. Though the outer portion of the root is a hard tissue called dentin, the inside channel or “root canal” contains a pulp of soft tissue, blood vessels and nerves.
Bacteria that are introduced into the pulp as a result of tooth decay, periodontal disease, tooth fracture or other problems, can severely damage the pulp. When that happens, an endodontic specialist removes the diseased pulp to save the tooth and prevent further infection and inflammation. After successful endodontic treatment, the tooth continues to perform normally.
What’s the difference between a dentist and an endodontist?
While all endodontists are dentists, less than three percent of dentists are endodontists. Endodontists proudly refer to themselves as Specialists in Saving Teeth.
Endodontists Have Advanced Education
To become specialists, endodontists have two to three years of additional education in an advanced specialty program in endodontics after completing four years of dental school. They focus on studying diseases of the dental pulp and how to treat them.
Endodontists Have Specialized Expertise
By limiting their practice to endodontics, endodontists focus exclusively on treatments of the dental pulp. They complete an average of 25 root canal treatments a week, while general dentists typically do two.
Endodontists Are Experts in Pain Managament
Endodontists use specialized techniques to ensure patients are thoroughly comfortable during their treatments. They are experts in administering numbing medications, especially in patients who traditionally have problems getting and staying numb. In addition to treating you comfortably, patients will be relieved of tooth pain after their root canal procedure when the pulp infection or inflammation heals.
Endodontists Use Cutting-Edge Technologies
Endodontists have materials and equipment designed to make your treatment more comfortable and successful. They use a small sheet of latex called a dental dam to isolate the tooth during treatment, protecting the rest of your mouth. Digital radiographs and 3-D imaging allow endodontists to take detailed pictures of tiny tooth anatomy to better see the root canals and any related infections. Endodontists use dental operating microscopes to better see inside the root canals to thoroughly treat them.
Endodontists: the Superheroes of Saving Teeth
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What is root canal therapy?
Root canal therapy is a non-surgical procedure that focuses on treating injured or diseased pulp of the tooth. Pulp, which is at the center of your tooth, is a collection of soft tissues, blood vessels and nerves. Infection of the pulp can be caused by trauma to the tooth, deep decay, cracks and chips, or repeated dental procedures. Root canal therapy is a treatment that can save your natural teeth and prevent the need of dental implants or bridges.
What are symptoms that may warrant a root canal?
If you experience symptoms such as visible injury or swelling around the tooth, sensitivity to temperature or pain in the tooth and gums, your dentist may recommend non-surgical root canal treatment. Trauma to the teeth, such as fractured or cracked teeth may also require root canal therapy.
Why do I need a root canal?
Sometimes your teeth may have infection or disease that requires additional care. When possible, you should always consider treatments that will save your natural teeth.
You may think, why not have a tooth pulled, especially if no one can see it? However, missing teeth can cause other teeth to shift, affect your ability to properly chew and ruin your smile. Replacing an extracted tooth with an artificial one when not necessary requires additional dental visits and increased expense.
Modern endodontics offers advancements in technologies, procedures and materials, giving you many treatment options to save your natural teeth. It’s important to understand your choices and how they’ll impact both your tooth and your future dental health.
Endodontists are specialists in saving teeth. They can evaluate your condition and provide the best treatment plan to help you save your teeth for a lifetime.
I'm Worried About X-Rays. Should I Be?
No. While x-rays will be necessary during your treatment, we use an advanced non-film computerized system, called digital radiography, that produces radiation levels up to 90 percent lower than those of already low dose conventional dental x-ray machinery. These digital images can be optimized, archived, printed and sent to co-therapists via e-mail or diskette. For more information contact our office.
What about cross-contamination & infection?
Again, there's no need for concern. We adhere to the most rigorous standards of infection control advocated by OSHA, the Centers for Disease Control and the American Dental Association. We utilize medical grade disinfecting wipes, autoclave sterilization and barrier techniques to eliminate any risk of infection or cross-contamination.
What happens in a root canal procedure?
In root canal therapy, the endodontist removes the injured or diseased pulp and then thoroughly cleans and seals the root canal system. This therapy usually involves local anesthesia and may be completed in one or more visits depending on the treatment required. Success for this type of treatment occurs in about 90% of cases. If your tooth is not amenable to endodontic treatment or the chance of success is unfavorable, our endodontists will inform you at the time of consultation or when a complication becomes evident during or after treatment.
What happens after root canal treatment?
When your root canal therapy is complete, a record of your treatment will be sent to your general (restorative) dentist. It is recommended that you contact your dentist’s office for a follow-up restoration within a couple of weeks of completion of root canal treatment at our office.
Your dentist will decide on what type of restoration is necessary to protect your tooth. It is rare for endodontic patients to experience complications after routine endodontic treatment or microsurgery. If a problem does occur, however, we are here to help.
Is a root canal painful?
Many endodontic procedures are performed to relieve the pain of toothaches caused by pulp inflammation or infection. Endodontists understand a great deal about pain management. With modern techniques and anesthetics, the vast majority of patients report that they are comfortable during the procedure.
For the first few days after treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. Over-the-counter medications, such as Advil® or Tylenol®, are usually enough to manage this sensitivity. In some cases, prescription medications may be necessary and are available from your endodontist. Follow your endodontist’s instructions carefully.
Your tooth may continue to feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your endodontic treatment is completed. Of course, if you experience pressure or pain that lasts more than a few days, call your endodontist. If swelling increases after your root canal contact your endodontist.
Will the tooth need any special care or additional treatment after endodontic treatment?
Most endodontically treated teeth last as long as other natural teeth. In a few cases, a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment does not heal or the pain continues. Occasionally, the tooth may become painful or diseased months or even years after successful treatment. When this occurs, an endodontic retreatment procedure can save the tooth.
How do I schedule an appointment?
So your dentist referred you to an endodontist. Our staff is here to help! With four convenient locations and seven endodontists, we are able to helped get you scheduled in a timely manner. If you have pain or an emergency situation, every attempt will be made to see you promptly.
Ready to schedule? Contact us at one of our two office locations.
Will I be able to drive myself home after root canal treatment?
We use local anesthesia to eliminate discomfort. You will be able to drive home after your treatment, and you probably will be comfortable returning to your normal routine soon after treatment.
If you are using certain forms of sedation, you will need an adult to drive you back home safely after the sedation.
Why would I need endodontic surgery?
Generally, a root canal is all that is needed to save teeth with injured pulp from extraction. Occasionally, this non-surgical procedure will not be sufficient to heal the tooth and your endodontist will recommend surgery.
Endodontic surgery can be used to locate fractures or hidden canals that do not appear on digital radiographs but still manifest pain in the tooth. Damaged root surfaces or the surrounding bone may also be treated with this procedure. The most common surgery used to save damaged teeth is an apicoectomy or root-end resection.
What is apical surgery?
An apical surgery or apicoectomy involves making an incision in the gum tissue to expose the bone and surrounding inflamed tissue. The damaged tissue is removed along with the end of the root tip. A root-end filling is placed to prevent reinfection of the root and the gum is sutured. The bone naturally heals around the root over a period of months restoring full function.
What types of technologies do your offices use?
We use a number of advanced technologies that enhance the practice of endodontics and care we provide our patients.
All of our offices use digital radiography, a technology that exposes patients to less radiation than conventional x-rays, makes it easier to share a patient’s radiographic images with both the patient and referring dentist, improves communication about treatment procedures with patients and referring dentists, expedites appointments through faster image processing, and is environmentally friendly because it does not require toxic chemicals for image processing.
In addition to digital x-rays, our endodontists may use CBCT, or cone beam computed tomography if needed. This advanced 3D technology helps our endodontists see very fine details inside teeth to provide superior diagnosis and treatment planning options for the patient. The additional CBCT fee will be discussed with you prior to obtaining this scan.
We also use operating microscope technology that provides optimal magnification and fiber optic illumination during endodontic treatment. This specialized technology aids the doctor in seeing tiny details inside your tooth. In addition, a tiny video camera on the operating microscope can record images of your tooth to further document the endodontist’s findings.
Other technologies we use include tooth canal irrigation devices and rotary instruments.