Did you know that less than three percent of dentists are also endodontists? It’s a specialized field of dental care that requires advanced training and uses state-of-the-art technologies to save your natural teeth and restore them to a healthier state. The root of a tooth can be as small as a strand of hair, making it impossible to see or treat without a magnifier. General dentists do not have the advanced equipment or training needed to perform such a delicate procedure. That’s why it is important to seek an experienced endodontist for any type of dental procedure or surgery that involves the repair or treatment of your tooth root.
Microscopic Root Canal Therapy
The most common dental work an endodontist performs is microscopic root canal therapy. Each year, millions of teeth are saved through this type of endodontic treatment. A root canal is necessary when the pulp (the soft tissue inside the tooth) is infected or inflamed. This can be caused by a variety of issues, including:
- Deep Decay
- Cracked/Fractured Teeth
- Weakening Due to Multiple Treatments to a Tooth
- Traumatic Injury
When left untreated, the damaged pulp can cause extreme pain or lead to an abscess. An endodontist, however, can save the tooth by removing the infected/inflamed pulp. The area is then cleaned, shaped, filled and sealed. A follow-up visit is required for your dentist to place the crown, or other restorative treatment, to protect your tooth and restore it to full function.
Microscopic Endodontic Retreatment
With proper care, most root canals will last as long as a natural tooth. In some cases, however, a previous root canal may fail several months or even years after the initial procedure. When this happens, a microscopic endodontic retreatment is necessary to restore the tooth. The endodontist will first determine the cause for the failure and then make the necessary corrections to restore your tooth’s health. This generally involves similar steps as the original root canal.
During root canal treatment, the canals are cleaned and infected tissue is removed. In some cases, however, infected debris may remain behind and prevent the tooth from healing. When an infection develops after root canal treatment or retreatment, an apicoectomy may be required. In an apicoectomy, the root tip, also known as the apex, is removed with the infected tissue. A filling is placed and the end of the root is sealed. An apicoectomy is only performed if the tooth has had at least one root canal already.
In addition to root canals and apicoectomies, endodontists may also perform oral surgeries, repair traumatic dental injuries, and work with dental implants. The end goal for your endodontist is helping you maintain your beautiful smile for a lifetime.
Are Root Canals Painful?
Your comfort is a priority for our dental team. During your root canal procedure, our endodontist will administer anesthetics to help numb the area, so you should feel little to no pain. Throughout the treatment process, we’ll also explain what we are doing and ask how you are feeling. Don’t be afraid to speak up. We need to know if you are experiencing any discomfort, so we can help make your experience as stress-free as possible.
After the treatment, we may also recommend over-the-counter or prescription medication to help ease any pain you may feel over the next few days. To avoid damaging the treated tooth, you should refrain from biting or chewing on it until it is fully restored. Most of our patients report little to no discomfort during and after their root canal treatments.
Do I Need an Endodontist?
If you are experiencing persistent tooth pain or have an injured tooth, you may need to see our endodontist. Other symptoms that indicate the need for endodontic care include:
- Sensitivity to Hot or Cold Items
- Swelling Around the Tooth
- Discoloration of Tooth
- Swelling Gums
- Facial Swelling
If you are experiencing any of these issues, do not wait until your regular bi-annual checkup. Schedule an exam as soon as possible. It’s important to take care of it immediately to ensure the damage to your teeth is kept to a minimum. After your examination, we’ll discuss options for endodontic treatment and answer any questions you may have about the proposed procedure.
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Frequently Asked Questions
- What causes tooth infections?
The inside of your teeth is filled with a pulp made up of nerves, connective tissue and blood vessels. Tooth decay, cavities, gum disease and damage to the tooth (cracks/breaks) can lead to an infection in the pulp. Left untreated, this infection will eventually kill the pulp and lead to an abscess.
- How do you know if you have an abscessed tooth?
It’s possible to have an abscess and not experience any symptoms, but in general, most people will experience one or more of the following:
- Pain (In the Jaw or While Chewing)
- Sore or Red Gums
- Bad Taste
- Swollen Lymph Nodes
- Trouble Swallowing or Breathing
Your dentist can also identify an abscess during a routine exam through x-rays.
- Which is better: root canal or extraction?
- For long-term results, the best option is always the one that saves your tooth. In this case, that would be a root canal. Although itself extraction is less expensive, the space created by the missing tooth, if left unfilled, can create additional dental problems.
- Are root canals painful?
- Most patients report little discomfort during a root canal since the tooth and surrounding areas are numbed to prevent the sensation of pain. After the treatment, however, you may experience some soreness and sensitivity, but this can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen. You dentist may also prescribe a pain medication to help relieve any discomfort you may experience.
- How long does a root canal take?
- No two root canals are the same. The length of the procedure can vary, depending on the extent of the damage and the tooth itself. In general, most root canals can be performed in under two hours. This does not include the time needed to place the crown during the follow-up appointment.
- Can a root canal fail?
- Most root canals provide long-term relief for patients, but in some instances, a root canal may fail. There are several reasons why this can happen. It can become re-infected due to poor oral hygiene or the materials may have degraded over time. In addition, cavities or gum disease may develop on the root of the treated tooth, just like it would on any other tooth in your month. In general, less than 15 percent of root canals fail.