What is an Endodontist?
Endodontists are dentists with special training in root canal treatment procedures. They perform only endodontic services in their practices and they are specialists recognized by the American Dental Association, and the American Association of Endodontists. To become specialists, they complete dental school and an additional two or more years of advanced training in endodontics. They perform routine as well as difficult and very complex endodontic procedures, including endodontic surgery. Endodontists are also experienced at finding the cause of oral and facial pain that has been difficult to diagnose. Dr. Murrin and Dr. Lee have over forty years of combined experience in clinical practice and clinical research in the specialty of endodontics.
What is Endodontic Treatment?
“Endo” is the Greek word for “inside” and “odont” is Greek for tooth. Endodontic treatment is a procedure to remove the diseased pulp tissues from the inside of the tooth. To understand endodontic treatment, it helps to know what’s inside a tooth. Under the white enamel and a hard layer called dentin, is a soft tissue called the pulp (think of marrow inside a bone). The dental pulp contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. The pulp manufactures the surrounding hard tissues of the tooth during development. In the fully developed tooth, the pulp serves primarily as a pain sensor. Tooth pain that is triggered by hot, cold, sweet, and air originates in the pulp.
The pulp extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the roots where it connects to the tissues surrounding the root. The pulp is important during a tooth’s growth and development. However, once a tooth is fully mature, it can survive without the pulp, because the tooth continues to be connected to and nourished by the tissues surrounding it.
Why would I need an endodontic procedure (a root canal procedure)?
Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay, cracks or chips in the tooth, or repeated dental procedures on the tooth. In addition, a blow to the tooth may damage the pulp even if there are no chips or cracks in the tooth. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.
Signs of pulp damage include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, discoloration of the tooth, and swelling and tenderness in the nearby gum or soft tissues of the face and neck. Sometimes, there are no symptoms at all.
How does the endodontic treatment save my tooth?
The endodontist enters the crown of the tooth and removes the infected pulp (the root itself is not removed). The inside of the tooth is then skillfully shaped and cleaned. The clean space inside the roots is then filled and sealed by the endodontist to prevent saliva and bacteria from leaking back into the tooth. Afterward, you will return to your dentist who may place a crown or other restoration on the tooth to restore the tooth to full function. After restoration, the tooth can continue to function for a lifetime, just like any other tooth.
Many endodontic procedures are done to relieve the pain of toothaches caused by pulp inflammation or infection. With modern techniques and anesthetics introduced in just the last few years, most patients report that they are comfortable during the procedure.
For a few days after treatment, your tooth may feel bruised or sore to pressure. This is especially true if you had pain and tenderness before the root canal procedure was done. This discomfort is usually relieved by over-the-counter or prescription pain medication.
Nothing is as good as your natural tooth!
Saving your natural tooth should always be your first choice when dental care is needed. Nothing, not even the most advanced bridges and implants, can truly replace your natural tooth. Dental implant procedures can be complex, costly, and they often require several visits and several month’s healing time before the procedure can be completed. Do everything possible to save your teeth before considering extraction. Dr. Murrin and Dr. Lee will determine if your tooth cannot be saved with endodontic treatment- and some cannot. If that is the case, you may consider a bridge or dental implant depending on the surrounding teeth and bone structure.