An endodontist is a little different than your average dentist. These specialists are highly skilled in saving teeth, especially when it comes to the core of your teeth - dental pulp! Endodontists have extensive training and experience in the maintenance and treatment of the inner tissue of your teeth. While your dentist will know some things regarding endodontic therapy, they'll often refer you to an endodontist when a specialized treatment or therapy plan is necessary. These specialists are professionals at diagnosing the root cause of tooth pain, and work heavily in root canal therapy and treatment. At times, your dentist may refer you to an endodontist when a tooth needs to be saved.
What are Procedures Done by An Endodontist?
Because your endodontist isn't your average dentist, neither are their procedures. They're highly specialized in treating issues revolving around your dental pulp, hence a limited amount of procedures. You're not going to visit your endodontist for a teeth cleaning. Usually endodontists are responsible for root canal treatments or therapies, surgery involving the root of your tooth, traumatic injury, and even dental implants.
What is An Endodontic Treatment?
Typically an endodontic treatment is referring to root canal therapy as this is the most common amongst the field. Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp of your tooth has become infected. This can happen by a variety of ways, but generally involves bacteria that has been left behind leaving an infection. This can occur from an untreated cavity, a chipped tooth, or a broken crown. When an infection happens, the pulp of your tooth becomes inflamed and can even lead to an abscessed tooth when left untreated.
An endodontic treatment works at completely removing any trace of bacteria or infection on the pulp of your tooth. As the pulp is located on the inside or your tooth, it can seem like a fairly invasive process. However with modern technology, endodontists have made this procedure similar to a simple dental filling. Once the tooth has been cleaned of infection, your endodontist is responsible for filling the inside of your tooth and sealing it. Your endodontist will determine whether a filling or dental crown is necessary for completed treatment.
Treatment can require several appointments depending on the severity of your infection. At the least you can expect to have two appointments for full therapy. Not all treatment options are guaranteed to work, but most root canal therapies are successful in saving a tooth. The treatment will leave your teeth with a natural appearance, as your real tooth is left behind.
Another reason behind endodontic treatment derives from trauma or injury to the pulp of your tooth. When your tooth suffers from a heavy hit, the pulp can become damaged. At times, if a tooth is still developing it can cause the root to stop growing. There are several procedures your endodontist can perform to restore the tooth. The same goes for teeth that have been knocked out. Your endodontist can use a root canal procedure to restore a tooth or replant it.
Signs for Endodontic Treatment
How will you know if you need to visit an endodontist for root canal therapy? If you've been experiencing prolonged, extreme sensitivity to temperature, sensitivity to touch, or swollen lymph nodes, these can all be signs it's time to visit an endodontist. However, sometimes you may experience no signs or symptoms and your dentist will find you need treatment from a dental X-ray at your routine oral exam.
After you've had a consultation and your endodontist is able to diagnose what needs to be done they'll start the procedure by performing an X-ray and giving you a local anesthetic. They then apply a protective sheet, or "dental dam" over the area which helps isolate the tooth giving you issues and keeps it dry while they work.
Then, your endodontist will start cleaning out the tooth and any infected pulp. They need to make sure all traces of infection are cleaned out before using a filling to prevent future complications.
Filling is then placed where the pulp was removed. This seals off the root canal and prevents further bacteria from entering.
You will have a follow up visit where your endodontist is responsible for repairing the tooth with a dental crown.
Pain with Endodontic Procedures
During the procedure, patients are given a local anesthetic, so they won't feel pain during the procedure. Toothache pain is generally what patients use to notify their dentist of a potential issue. After you've had the procedure done, the tooth may feel tender or sensitive but it should go away with time. Patients can take over-the-counter pain medication if they are feeling discomfort. If pain after the procedure is severe, you should contact your endodontist immediately to make sure there weren't any complications after the procedure.
After-Care for Endodontic Procedures
Depending on what stage of the procedures you've completed will dictate how you should care for your smile. If you've undergone the first stage and are still waiting for a dental crown, you should refrain from chewing or biting with the tooth that was repaired. The tooth will be fragile without a dental crown and could potentially crack or fracture if there is too much pressure applied. Once you have the dental crown, you can go back to your normal oral care routine including regular brushing and flossing. Remembering to visit your dentist for regular oral exams and professional teeth cleanings are the best way to prevent root canals from occurring in the future.
After the procedure, your new tooth should last. There are occasions where a tooth can become infected again due to a cracked crown or filling, or new trauma. In these cases your endodontist may want to redo the endodontic procedure to save the tooth from extraction. Most teeth can be saved with an endodontic procedure, but there are cases where you may need to have the tooth extracted. When this happens, generally the root canal is not accessible either because the tooth is too severely fractured, or there isn't enough bone to restore the tooth. There is, however, endodontic surgery which can be used in lieu of an endodontic treatment.
Endodontic surgery is saved as a last option when a typical endodontic procedure can't remedy an infected tooth. With this surgery, your endodontist will be able to find small fractures or hidden canals that may not show up with a dental X-ray. From there, they will be able to remove any trace of infection in these smaller crevices, as well as any calcium deposits. Endodontic surgery simply takes an endodontic procedure one step further in ridding a tooth of infected pulp before restoring it with a filling and dental crown.
This endodontic surgery is also called a root-end resection, which is used to restore a tooth suffering from an infection in the bone at the end of the tooth. Usually this is performed after a root canal procedure. Any underlying gum or bone tissue that is infected is removed, as well as the very end of the root of your tooth to ensure all traces of infection are gone. A filling is then used to seal the root canal along with stitches. The healing process is similar to an root canal procedure, and patients recover fairly quickly.
Cost of Endodontic Procedures
The cost of an endodontic procedure will depend on the severity of the infection of your tooth. If you have a complex issue, with many sources of infection a more in-depth procedure like endodontic surgery will cost more. The tooth affected can also impact the cost of root canal therapy. If you have dental insurance, inquire about the coverage for endodontic treatments, as most policies will assist with the cost of these procedures. Generally, the procedures will cost less than having the tooth fully extracted as the patients won't have to pay for constructing an entirely new tooth.
Choosing the Right Endodontist
As endodontists are specialists, finding the right one can seem daunting. Performing an endodontist near me search may leave you with some professionals in your area. You can also ask your dentist if they have any particular endodontist they recommend, as many often work within the same offices delegating particular cases. Your dentist can also assess if you need to see a particular endodontist after an oral exam. From there, you'll have a consultation with your endodontist to determine the right treatment plan for you.
At your consultation, be prepared to go over your medical history and medications you take. They will perform a dental X-ray to determine the extent of your infection. At times, your endodontist may find that there are additional canals or crevices where infection lies and will recommend an endodontic surgery to restore the entire tooth. While endodontic treatment, therapies, and surgery can seem overwhelming these specialists are highly trained and knowledgeable in their field. They are known for saving your teeth, and they may just be able to save yours!