A lot has changed in dental technology over the years, and root canal procedures are no exception. There are now lasers and other advanced techniques to make the process easier for patients and dentists. But while root canal therapy has come a long way, not all types of root canals can be performed by all dentists, and that’s where Endodontists come in.
An endodontist is a dentist who specializes in problems with the inside of the tooth, specifically the pulp, which consists of nerves, blood vessels, and other soft tissues. Endodontists can perform many types of procedures. They may be asked to treat cracked and broken teeth, diagnose and treat problems with the roots, and replant or replace teeth have been knocked out or extracted. An endodontist may also have hospital privileges which allow them to be called in to examine patients with dental and facial trauma. But the
majority of their work centers on root canal therapy. Just like general dentists, Endodontists attend dental school for four years, but Endodontists have an additional two to three years of training or residency in their specialty.
To best understand what an Endodontist does, one must know a little something about root canals. When an infection similar to a cavity reaches the roots of a tooth, it infects the pulp and nerves and in time, if left untreated, kills the tooth. Endodontic therapy is often
the only option to save the tooth from a tooth extraction.
Endodontic treatment is used to extract the infected pulp and nerves from the canals in the tooth’s roots. During root canal treatment, the Endodontist uses small files to clean the pulp from the chamber and shape the canals. The canals are then filled to seal the chamber off from infection. A dental crown is typically placed on the tooth to restore and
protect it from further damage.
It’s important for all of the infection to be removed to avoid a tooth abscess or relapse. If the canals are oddly shaped orcurved, there is a greater risk of leaving infection behind. If the filling doesn’t go far enough into the canal or breaks down gradually, bacteria may reappear in the root canal and re-infect the area. Narrow canals put a person at risk of
the files getting trapped or not fitting, and blocked canals suggest an Endodontist may not be able to do the treatment at all. Some canals are hard to distinguish and may be overlooked during treatment. All of these are reasons why a specialist is more suited to perform this procedure. An endodontist, who has a higher level of root canal experience, can lessen these risks, which is why some patients may choose an endodontist over a general dentist for their procedure.
Endodontic treatment is a very detailed procedure. But whether an endodontist is needed depends on the complexity of the procedure, and the affected tooth itself. A general dentist may refer clients to an Endodontist if their practice does not offer endodontic services, or if a case is past their expertise, or if endodontic retreatment or surgery is