WHAT IS ENDODONTICS?
Endodontics is a specialty of dentistry that deals with the diseases of the dental pulp and its supportive structures. Endodontists are dentists with special postgraduate training in the field. Endodontists are also specialized in finding the cause of oral and facial pain that has been difficult to diagnose.
Although general dentists can perform endodontic treatment, patients are often referred to an endodontist when the case is complicated or more difficult than usual.
In order to understand endodontic treatment it helps to know something about the anatomy of a tooth. Teeth have several layers, the outside layer of a tooth is composed of a hard layer called enamel. Enamel is supported by an inner layer called dentin which has, at its center, a soft tissue known as pulp.
WHY WOULD I NEED ENDODONTIC TREATMENT?
The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissues. Infection of the pulp can be caused by trauma to the tooth, deep decay, cracks and chips or repeated dental procedures.
Symptoms of the infection can be identified as visible injury or swelling of the jaw, sensitivity to temperature or pain in the tooth and gums. When there is such an irreversible damage to the dental pulp, it needs to be removed, completely cleaned out and filled with an endodontic filling material in order to save the tooth. This is the definition of a root canal treatment.
HOW CAN ENDODONTIC TREATMENT HELP ME?
Unfortunately, when the dental pulp is irreversibly damaged, there are only two ways to eliminate the infection/pain in a tooth. At this point, either an extraction to remove the entire tooth, or a root canal treatment to remove the pulp in the infected tooth can provide relief for the patient and eliminate the infection. The endodontist removes the inflamed or infected pulp, carefully cleans and shapes the canal system and then seals the prepared space.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
An infected dental pulp presents itself ranging from an extreme swelling to the sensation of pressure buildup in the tooth. However, sometimes there are NO SYMPTOMS. On the other hand, an inflamed pulp could cause severe HOT and COLD sensitivity that would in turn progress into a constant ache that would not go away with pain medications. Until and unless the reason for the infection/inflammation is removed, i.e. the dental pulp and the subsequent endodontic treatment, there will be no relief from the pain.
WILL I FEEL PAIN DURING OR AFTER THE PROCEDURE?
Fortunately, modern anesthetics can make the procedure pain free. Seeking treatment early can make the procedure more comfortable, so don't wait! When caught early treatment should feel no different than having a regular filling. For the first few days after the treatment there may be some sensitivity to biting pressure, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. Sometimes, depending on the case, antibiotics and/or anti-inflammatory medications (such as Advil) are recommended for a few days after the procedure.
HOW MANY APPOINTMENTS WOULD I NEED?
Most endodontic treatment is now performed in a single appointment ranging from 60 to 90 minutes (depending on the number of canals and complexity of the case). Retreatments will normally be done in two appointments.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE ROOT CANAL IS FINISHED?
After the endodontist has sealed the root canal system, you will be instructed to return to your general dentist for the permanent reconstruction. The restoration of the tooth is an important part of the treatment because it seals the cleaned canals from the oral environment, protects the tooth and restores it to function.