What is an Endodontist?
Endodontists are specialists in saving teeth through endodontic (root canal) treatment. They only provide endodontic services in their practices. To become a specialist, they complete dental school and an additional two or more years of advanced training in endodontics. This specialist training allows an Endodontist to deal with diseases of the dental pulp and supporting structures as well as diagnose oral or facial pain and related problems.
What is Endodontics?
Endodontics is the specialty of Dentistry that deals with diseases of the dental pulp and its supporting structures. To understand Endodontics (root canal therapy); looking at the anatomy of a tooth is helpful. The outer hard layer is called the Enamel; underneath this is another layer called the Dentin, which has a center of soft tissue known as the pulp.
The pulp contains the nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue that help form the dentin and enamel during tooth development by receiving nourishment thru the root ends. It is not however necessary for the function of the tooth. Even after removal of the pulp, the tooth will continue to be nourished by the surrounding tissues.
Endodontic treatment involves removing the pulp tissue from inside the tooth and its roots, followed by a thorough cleansing of the root canal system. Filling material is then placed into the roots of the tooth.
Why would I need Endodontic (root canal) Treatment?
Endodontic treatment is needed when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected. This can by caused by decay, a crack or chip in the tooth, or repeated dental procedures on the tooth. A blow to the tooth may also cause damage to the pulp. If left untreated, this inflammation can cause pain or an abscess.
Symptoms of pulp damage include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, discoloration of the tooth, swelling or tenderness of nearby gums. Sometimes, there are no symptoms.
How can Endodontic Treatment help me?
Endodontic treatment can relieve pain and eliminate infection. In many cases, endodontic treatment allows the patient to save a tooth that would otherwise be extracted. After the treatment is completed, a patient is referred back to their dentist for a permanent restoration of the tooth. This is an important part of the overall treatment because it seals the cleaned canals from bacteria, protects the tooth, and restores it to function. If the tooth is not sealed by a permanent restoration, it can become re-infected; possibly requiring re-treatment of the root canal therapy.
The Endodontic Procedure
Examination and x-ray of the tooth are completed and local anesthetic is administered to numb the area. A protective sheet is placed around the are to keep the tooth clean and free of saliva during the procedure.
The Endodontist cleans out the pulp chamber and the root canals with very small instruments; and shapes the space for the filling material.
The Endodontist fills the cleaned and shaped canals with a biocompatible material, usually a rubber like material called “gutta-percha”. This material is placed with an adhesive to ensure complete sealing of the root canals. Usually, a temporary filling is placed in crown opening of the tooth. Your dentist will remove this before a permanent restoration is done.
After your root canal therapy is completed, you must return to your dentist to have a crown or other restoration placed on the tooth to protect it and restore function.
Tooth images on this web page were reproduced with permission from the American Association of Endodontists.
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