What is an endodontist and what do they do?

Endodontists are dentists who specialize in maintaining teeth through endodontic therapy — procedures involving the soft inner tissue of the teeth, called the pulp. The word “endodontic” comes from the Greek word “endo” meaning “inside” and “odont” meaning “tooth.” All dentists are trained in the diagnosis and endodontic therapy. However, some teeth can be especially difficult to diagnose and treat. In addition to dental school, endodontists receive two or more years of advanced education in this kind of treatment. They study oral biology, anatomy, and root canal techniques and procedures in great depth to be able to diagnose and treat more difficult cases and orofacial pain.

That’s why you may have been referred to an endodontic specialist by your regular dentist.

What is a root canal, and what happens during endodontic treatment?

During endodontic treatment, a local anesthetic will be given. A sheet of latex (or nonlatex) rubber called the “dental dam” will be placed around the tooth to isolate it, 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 treatments take two visits, but many can be completed in a single visit. Occasionally, three appointments may be needed. In any case, it depends on the degree of infection/inflammation and the degree of treatment difficulty. It’s more important to do it correctly and completely than to meet specific time criteria.

Root canal or endodontic therapy has a very high rate of success, over 90 percent, but each case can be different. We will discuss the chances of success before any endodontic procedure to help you make an informed decision. If a root canal or endodontic therapy is unsuccessful, you will still have options.

Endodontists diagnose and treat pain.

Oral pain, such as toothaches from cracked or fractured teeth, is often difficult to pinpoint. Did you know that because of the vast network of nerves in the mouth, the pain caused by a damaged or diseased tooth is often felt in different teeth or in the head, neck or ear? An endodontist is a specialist in diagnosing and treating this type of pain.

Endodontists treat traumatic injuries

Pulp damage can be caused by a blow to the mouth. Fortunately, endodontists are trained to handle these cases.

> Learn more about traumatic injuries

Will I need to return for additional visits?

Once endodontic therapy is completed, your tooth should be examined periodically, usually every 6-to-12 months. This allows us to make sure the tooth is healing properly. When it’s time to reevaluate the area, you will be sent a notice in the mail. Since an abscess may take two years to heal, our office will reevaluate the tooth for at least two years.

Retreatment

Occasionally a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment fails to heal, or pain continues despite the therapy. Although it’s rare, sometimes a tooth initially responds to root canal therapy but becomes painful or diseased months or years later. When either of these situations occurs, the tooth often can be maintained with a second endodontic treatment.

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