Endodontic FAQs

Who is an Endodontist?

An Endodontist is a dental specialist who has limited his practice to root canal treatment and related procedures. Endodontists have completed additional postgraduate training after dental school to assist them in treating complicated endodontic cases.  By referring you to an Endodontist, your family dentist is demonstrating a personal concern for the quality of your dental care.

What is Endodontics?

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 root canal treatment, the tooth continues to perform normally.

What is root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment is performed when the soft inner tissue of the tooth, the pulp, has been damaged, usually through decay or physical trauma. Treatment consists of removing the pulp and cleaning, sterilizing, filling, and sealing the root canals. The tooth remains alive, nourished by the adjacent tissues of the gums and jaw. Over 90% of cases are successful, while a few may require additional treatment. After the root canal treatment is completed it is very important to return to your family dentist so that a permanent restoration can be placed. Usually a crown is needed to protect the tooth from chipping.

Are there any alternatives to root canal treatment ?

Once the dental pulp is diseased, the only alternative to root canal treatment is extraction. Replacing the tooth with a bridge, implant, or partial denture is generally more costly than the root canal treatment and crown.

Is root canal treatment painful?

Root canal treatment usually involves no more discomfort than a routine filling appointment. In fact, most Root Canal Treatment relieves pain. Most stories of painful root canals are a holdover from the days before modern techniques and effective anesthetics were available.

What are we doing for your comfort?

We provide oral conscious sedation for our patients who are especially fearful or have other issues. Digital Radiography is utilized whereby the patient is exposed to 90% less radiation with computer enhanced stored images. We also use electronic apex locators (particularly useful for pregnant patients). We utilize the surgical operating microscope which has increased the success rate in Endodontics and also facilitates the treatment of difficult cases in one appointment. Patient comfort is our primary concern.

Will I need to return to my general dentist?

Yes! When you complete your root canal therapy, we put a temporary filling in the crown of your teeth. The tooth continues to draw its nourishment from the surrounding tissues, but it needs to be permanently restored. As an endodontist, my practice is limited to endodontic procedures, so you must return to your general dentist for permanent restoration. The type of restoration you receive will depend on the location and the condition of the tooth. It is important to see your general dentist promptly because the temporary filling now in place will loosen with time.

How long will the treatment take?

Most cases can be done in one visit, though complex cases may require additional appointments. You should plan on one to two hours for each visit. Because of the long appointments, we request that parents make arrangements for children to stay at home.

What may occur if I elect not to have root canal therapy and my tooth goes untreated?

If a diseased or damaged pulp is not removed, the tooth and surrounding tissues may become inflamed and/or infected, eventually resulting in an abscess. Left untreated, ultimately the tooth will have to be removed.

Why should I have root canal therapy rather than have the tooth extracted?

Our own natural teeth are always best. Authorities agree that artificial substitutes do not function or appear quite as well as natural teeth. In addition, extraction and replacement is usually much more costly.

What can I expect during root canal therapy?

Root canal therapy is often performed in one or two visits and involves the following steps:

  • Local anesthetic is administered
  • A small opening is made in the crown of your tooth. Very small instruments are used to remove the pulp from the pulp chamber and root canals
  • Root canals are filled with a biocompatible material called gutta perch. A temporary filling is placed to close the opening; your general dentist will replace this with a permanent restoration.

What happens after treatment?

When your root canal therapy has been completed, a record of your treatment will be sent to your restorative dentist. You should contact your general dentist’s office for a follow-up restoration within a few weeks of completion at our office. Your general dentist will decide on what type of restoration is necessary to protect your tooth. It is rare for Endodontic patients to experience complications after routine root canal treatment or microsurgery. If a problem does occur, however, we are available at all times to respond.

For more information on root canal treatment, check the following links:

American Dental Association – Endodontics

American Association of Endodontics – Root Canal Therapy