What is an endodontist?

The words 'root canalThe portion of the pulp cavity inside the root of a tooth; the chamber within the root of the tooth that contains the pulp.' can strike fear in us

The words ‘root canal’ can strike fear into our hearts, but endodontics – root canal treatment – is a fascinating area of dentistry that’s not widely understood.

Specialists in this area, called endodontists, are skilled at treating infections at the centre of the tooth (the root canal), alleviating pain and often saving a tooth that might otherwise have to be removed. While all dentists are trained in rootThe anatomic portion of the tooth that is covered by cementum and is located in the alveolus (socket) where it is attached by the periodontal apparatus; radicular portion of tooth. canals, an endodontistA dental specialist who limits his/her practice to treating disease and injuries of the pulp and associated periradicular conditions. will have studied for an additional two or three years in this specialism, and will be highly skilled in diagnosing and treating the most difficult cases.

Why might I need root canal treatment?

Root canal problems happen when we develop an infection within the ‘dental pulpConnective tissue containing blood vessels and nerve tissue which occupies the pulp cavity of a tooth.’ inside a tooth’s root canal.

This type of infection can be caused by:
•    Tooth decayThe lay term for carious lesions in a tooth; decomposition of tooth structure.
•    A ‘leaky’ fillingA lay term used for the restoring of lost tooth structure by using materials such as metal, alloy, or porcelain.
•    Damage to the tooth through trauma such as a fall

If this happens, you may find you get pain when eating or drinking something hot or cold, or when biting or chewing, or your tooth may feel loose. Unfortunately, antibiotics do not work against root canal infections, so it’s necessary to physically access and treat the infection.

An endodontist will first investigate what’s going on inside the affected tooth by taking a series of x-rays before deciding on the most appropriate treatment. Their aim will always be to save the tooth if possible, so extractionThe process or act of removing a tooth or tooth parts. will be the very last resort.

What happens in root canal treatment?

During a root canal treatment, the endodontist will usually:

•    Give you a local anaesthetic to numb the infected tooth and gum
•    Place a rubber dam around the tooth to keep it dry during treatment
•    Go into your tooth via the crownSimple crown procedure utilizing a porcelain crown fused to non-precious metal and not involving complicated prep. (the flat part at the top) and remove any infected pulp within the root canal 
•    Clean the root canal and enlarge it so that they can successfully fill the area. (This is sometimes done over several visits with a temporary filling inserted in between)
•    Fit a crown on the tooth (particularly if it’s a molarTeeth posterior to the premolars (bicuspids) on either side of the jaw; grinding teeth, having large crowns and broad chewing surfaces. used for chewing) to prevent it from fracturing in the future

While the treatment is not a miracle cure, around nine out of 10 root-treated teeth survive for eight to 10 years, and if the infection does return in the future, an endodontist can repeat the root canal treatment. You can maximise the likelihood of the root canal being successful by making sure you clean your teeth scrupulously, limiting sugary foods and drinks, and seeing your dentist for regular check-ups.

Root canal treatment might seem daunting, but your dentist or endodontist will be adept at making you as comfortable as possible throughout the treatment and – although it can be uncomfortable – it should not be painful. 

If you think you might need root canal treatment, find a highly qualified specialist through the Colosseum Dental network.

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