What is endodontic treatment?
The hollow space inside a tooth contains soft tissue called the dental pulp. Decay, repeated dental procedures, cracks or trauma to the mouth can cause the pulp to become irritated, inflamed or infected. When this occurs, endodontic treatment is needed. If left untreated, the result can be pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, discoloration of the tooth, swelling or a draining pimple on the gums.
How is endodontic therapy performed?
Root canal therapy is routinely done in one or two visits. After an examination, which includes x-rays, a diagnosis will be made and treatment options will be presented. If endodontic treatment is elected, a local anesthetic is then administered. The tooth is isolated with a thin sheet of rubber (rubber dam) to protect your throat from fluids and debris. How does endodontic treatment save my tooth?
During endodontic treatment, the damaged or infected pulp is removed. After carefully cleaning and shaping the inside of the tooth, this space is then filled and sealed. Following a root canal, your dentist will place a crown or other restoration to protect and restore it to full function.
“Endo” is the Greek word for “inside” and “odont” is Greek for “tooth.”
A small opening is made through the chewing surface of the tooth which allows access to the tooth’s pulp chamber and root canals. After determining the length of the canals, they are enlarged and cleaned with small instruments and disinfectants. Your endodontist fills and seals the canal space with a material called gutta-percha. A temporary filling is then placed in the access opening.
What is an endodontic surgery?
When a tooth does not respond to root canal therapy, endodontic surgery may be necessary. This procedure is called an apicoectomy or root end surgery. After local anesthesia, the endodontist makes a small incision in the gum near the tooth and removes inflamed or infected tissue surrounding the root. The tip of the root is also removed and a small filling is placed to seal off the canal. The gums are then sutured back in place and an ice pack is applied to help reduce inflammation. Most patients resume normal activities the next day.
Will the tooth need any special care or additional treatment?
When you return to your general dentist, they will recommend either a crown or a permanent filling to restore your tooth. Because loss of tooth structure may be extensive, our dentist may also recommend a post and core buildup prior to the permanent restoration. Restorative questions should be directed to your dentist.
You should not chew or bite on the treated tooth until you have had it restored by your dentist. The un-restored tooth is susceptible to fracture, so you should see your dentist for a full restoration as soon as possible. Otherwise, you need only practice good oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing, and regular checkups and cleanings. Most endodontically treated teeth last as long as other natural teeth. In a few cases, a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment fails to heal or the pain continues. Occasionally, the tooth may become painful or diseased months or even years after successful treatment. Often when this happens, another endodontic procedure can save the tooth.
New trauma, deep decay, or a loose, cracked or broken filling can cause new infection in your tooth. In some cases, the endodontist may discover very narrow or curved canals that could not be treated during the initial procedure.
Who provides endodontic treatment?
All dentists receive endodontic training in dental school. While general dentists can perform root canals, many choose to refer these procedures to an endodontist. Endodontists are dentists who have received advanced training after dental school. As specialists, they only provide endodontic treatment which may vary from routine procedures to complex surgeries.