What is an Endodontist and what do they do?
Endodontists are dentists with special training in endodontic procedures. They provide only endodontic services in their practices because they are specialists. "Endo" is the Greek word for "inside" and "odont" is Greek for tooth. Endodontic treatment treats the inside of the tooth. All dentists are trained in diagnosis and endodontic therapy, however, some teeth can be especially difficult to diagnose and treat. That is why you may have been referred to an endodontic specialist.
To become a specialist, they complete dental school and an additional two or more years of advanced training in endodontics. They perform routine as well as difficult and very complex endodontic procedures, including endodontic surgery. Endodontists are also experienced at finding the cause of oral and facial pain that has been difficult to diagnose. For these reasons, many dentists choose to refer their patients to endodontists.
What Happens During Endodontic Treatment? Or What is a Root Canal?
The Endodontist examines and x-rays the tooth/teeth, and then local anesthetics will be given if treatment is necessary. A small protective sheet called a "dental dam" will be placed around the tooth to isolate it, hence keeping it clean and dry during treatment. The treatment consists of three or four basic steps, but the number of visits will depend on your particular case. Some treatment takes two visits but many are just a single visit.
There are, of course, no guarantees. Root canal or endodontic therapy has a very high degree of success, up to 90%. We will discuss with you the chances of success before any endodontic procedure to help you make an informed decision. If a root canal or endodontic therapy is unsuccessful or fails you still have options.
Diagnoses and Treats Pain
Oral pain such as toothaches or cracked/fractured teeth can often be difficult to pinpoint. Because of the vast network of nerves in the mouth, the pain of a damaged or diseased tooth is often felt in another tooth and/or in the head, neck, or ear. An endodontist is a specialist in diagnosing and treating this type of pain.
Treats Traumatic Injuries
Pulp damage is sometimes caused by a blow to the mouth, and the endodontist specializes in treating these traumatic injuries. For example, a blow to a child's permanent tooth that is not fully developed can cause the root to stop growing. A procedure called apexification stimulates bone to be deposited at the end of the root which makes it possible to then save the tooth through a root canal procedure. An endodontist is specially trained in procedures for replanting teeth that have been knocked out of their socket.
Will I need to return to your office for additional visits?
Once endodontic therapy is completed, your tooth should be examined periodically, usually every 6-12 months. This allows us to make sure the tooth has healed or is properly healing. You will be sent a notice in the mail when we feel it is appropriate to re-evaluate the area. Since a tooth may take 2 years to heal, our office will re-evaluate the tooth for at least 1 year.
Re-treatment and Surgical Treatment
Occasionally, a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment fails to heal or pain continues despite therapy. Although rare, sometimes a tooth initially responds to root canal therapy but becomes painful or diseased months or years later. When either of these situations occur, the tooth can often be maintained with a second endodontic treatment.
Sometimes, previous endodontic treatment or pretreatment to a tooth may fail to heal. The most common surgical endodontic treatment is called an apicoectomy. This procedure is performed when an endodontist opens the gum tissue to expose the underlying bone and remove any infected or inflamed tissue along with a portion of the root. Then a small filling may be placed to seal the end of the root, and the gum tissue can be sutured back in place. Over a period of time, the bone can heal back around the end of the root. Other surgeries may include treating damaged roots or perforations. Your endodontist will be happy to discuss the specific type of surgery designed to help save your tooth and your chances for success so that you can make an informed decision.
Will the treatment be painful?
We will take every measure to ensure that your procedure is in no way uncomfortable or painful. If treatment is needed, we will inject a small amount of anesthesia to gently numb a concentrated area of your mouth. For most patients, the feeling of numbness usually subsides after 2-3 hours.
Will I need to return to your office for follow-ups after the procedure is finished?
Yes, for most root canal treatments, we recommend that patients return to the office 6 months after the procedure was finished. Our office will send a reminder notice to you when you are due for a recall appointment.