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 “endo” meaning inside and “odont” meaning tooth.

All dentists are trained in diagnosis and endodontic therapy, however, some teeth can be especially difficult to diagnose and treat. That’s why you may have been referred to an endodontic specialist.

How much additional training do endodontists have?

In addition to dental school, endodontists receive two or more years of advanced education in this kind of treatment. They study root canal techniques and procedures in greater depth for diagnosis and treatment of more difficult cases. For this reason, many dentists choose to refer their patients to endodontists.

What is endodontic therapy?

A local anesthetic will be given. A sheet of latex called the “rubber dam” (non-latex available) 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. Most treatments require only a single visit. In any case, it depends on the degree of infection/inflammation and degree of treatment difficulty.

Root canal treatment, or endodontic therapy, have a very high degree of success. Most studies place success rates well above 90%. We will discuss with you the chances of success before any endodontic procedure to help you make an informed decision.

Why am I experiencing pain in other areas?

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 specializes in diagnosing and treating this type of referred pain.

What if I’ve sustained a traumatic mouth injury?

Pulp damage is sometimes caused by an injury to the mouth, and the endodontist specializes in treating these traumatic injuries. For example, an injury 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 sockets.

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 ensure that the tooth has healed or is healing properly. You will be sent a notice in the mail when we feel it is appropriate to reevaluate the area. Since an abscess may take 2 years to heal, our office will reevaluate the tooth for at least 2 years.

What is a retreatment?

Occasionally a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment fails to heal, or the pain persists 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 often can be maintained with a second endodontic treatment.

What is endodontic surgery (Apicoectomy)?

In this procedure, the endodontist opens the gum tissue near the tooth to see the underlying bone and to remove any inflamed or infected tissue. The very end of the root is also removed. A small filling may be placed in the root to seal the end of the root canal, and a few stitches or sutures are placed in the gingiva to help the tissue heal properly.