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 is an endodontist?
An endodontist is a dentist who has received two years of advanced training in endodontic procedures and has limited their practice to performing only endodontic procedures. Dentists will regularly refer patients needing endodontic procedures to an endodontist because of their experience in dealing with both routine and difficult endodontic procedures. Endodontists are also experts in diagnosing the cause of oral and facial pain.
Is there a health risk from X-rays?
No. While x-rays will be necessary during your endodontics 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 other providers of their use.
Is there a risk of 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 autoclave sterilization and barrier techniques to eliminate any risk of infection.
How many appointments do I need for my Root Canal?
After a consultation appointment a separate appointment will be made for endodontic treatment. Usually endodontic treatment can be completed in one appointment. This, however, can not be determined until after the procedure is started. If a second appointment is needed, we will then schedule one for you. Please be advised that the cost quoted for your root canal is the same regardless of the number of appointments necessary.
Will I feel pain during or after the procedure?
Most patients report that they are comfortable during endodontic treatment. After treatment the tooth may be sensitive and you may experience slight discomfort. However, we will give you post-op instructions regarding your root canal and which medications will relieve this pain. If you experience severe pain or swelling contact our office.
Can I drive myself home?
After most endodontic treatment, you should expect to be able to drive yourself home. If previous arrangements have been made for sedation, then assistance for transportation is necessary.
When can I return to my normal activities?
Each case is different, but many patients return to work the same day. Your endodontist will be happy to discuss your expected recovery time with you.
What happens after treatment?
After the procedure you need to avoid chewing or biting with the treated tooth until you have seen your dentist to have a crown or other restoration placed on the tooth. Until this is done the unrestored tooth will be susceptible to fracture. Once the tooth has been restored you need only practice proper oral hygiene and the tooth should last as long as any natural tooth.
What new technologies are being used?
In addition to digital radiography, we utilize special operating microscopes. Magnification and fiber optic illumination are helpful in aiding the doctor to see tiny details inside your tooth. Also, a tiny video camera on the operating microscope can record images of your tooth to further document the doctor’s findings.
Are there alternatives to endodontic treatment?
For some patients considering retreatment, endodontic surgery is also an option. This surgery involves making an incision near the end of the root to allow the tip of the root to be sealed. Endodontic surgery may be recommended in conjunction with retreatment or as an alternative. Your endodontist will discuss your options and recommend appropriate treatment.
The only other alternative is extraction of the tooth. The extracted tooth must then be replaced with an implant, bridge, or removable partial denture to restore chewing function and to prevent adjacent teeth from shifting. Because these alternatives require surgery or dental procedures on adjacent healthy teeth, they can be far more costly and time consuming than retreatment and restoration of the natural tooth.
No matter how effective modern tooth replacements are - and they can be very effective - nothing is as good as a natural tooth. You've already made an investment in saving your tooth. The pay-off for choosing endodontic surgery could be a healthy, functioning natural tooth for many years to come.
Myths About Root Canals
There are many misconceptions surrounding root canal (endodontic) treatment. As always, when considering any medical procedure, you should get as much information as you can about all of your options. Your dentist or endodontist can answer many of your questions, and if you still have concerns, it is often wise to seek a second opinion.
Myth #1 - Root canal treatment is painful
Truth: Root canal treatment doesn't cause pain, it relieves it.
Most patients see their dentist or endodontist when they have a severe toothache. The toothache can be caused by damaged tissues in the tooth. Root canal treatment removes this damaged tissue from the tooth, thereby relieving the pain you feel.
The perception of root canals being painful began decades ago when root canal treatment was painful. But with the latest technologies and anesthetics, root canal treatment today is no more uncomfortable than having a filling placed. In fact, a recent survey showed that patients who have experienced root canal treatment are six times more likely to describe it as "painless" than patients who have not had root canal treatment.
Myth #2 - A good alternative to root canal treatment is extraction (pulling the tooth)
Truth: Saving your natural teeth, if possible, is the very best option.
Nothing can completely replace your natural tooth. An artificial tooth can sometimes cause you to avoid certain foods. Keeping your own teeth is important so that you can continue to enjoy the wide variety of foods necessary to maintain the proper nutrient balance in your diet.
Endodontic treatment, along with appropriate restoration, is a cost-effective way to treat teeth with damaged pulp and is usually less expensive than extraction and placement of a bridge or an implant.
Endodontic treatment also has a very high success rate. Most root canal treated teeth last a lifetime.
Millions of healthy endodontically treated teeth serve patients all over the world, years and years after treatment. Those healthy teeth are helping patients chew efficiently, maintain the natural appearance of their smiles and enhance their enjoyment of life. Through endodontic treatment, endodontists and dentists worldwide enable patients to keep their natural teeth for a lifetime.