It’s easy to believe one type of “dentist” does the same work as the next, but that’s not entirely true. The field of endodontics (root canal therapy) in particular, is highly specialized, and practitioners have completed extended education to qualify them to be called Endodontic specialists. Here’s what endodontics involves, and why it’s important to understand the difference between what Endodontists do and what regular dental professionals do.

The Role of Tooth Pulp

Our teeth have several layers, including the external layer known as enamel and an inner layer called the dentin. The crown of the tooth is the part you see and use for biting and chewing.  The visible layer is composed of enamel, and the inner part is composed of Dentin. The root is the part of your tooth you don’t see and makes up most of the tooth structure.  The root is composed mostly of dentin covered by a thin layer of cells called Cementum.  Cementum is responsible for attaching the tooth to the bone of your jaw.  The inner part of the root is hollow and holds a soft tissue center called the tooth pulp. This pulp is home to the nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue that help the tooth grow, and warn of problems like decay and tooth fractures. Endodontics focuses on diseases of the pulp and the supporting structures of the teeth.

When Tooth Pulp Gets Infected

Bacteria can enter the pulp as the result of a cracked tooth or another injury, a deep dental cavity, or loss of an existing filling. When this happens, it can cause the pulp to become inflamed and infected, resulting in the death of some of the pulp tissue. Patients usually experience a range of symptoms, including:

  • Persistent tooth pain that feels like it’s deep inside the tooth structure (which it is).
  • Referred pain in your face muscles, jawbone, or other nearby teeth.
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks, and pain when you eat or touch the tooth.
  • Discoloration of the tooth as the internal tissue gets broken down.
  • Swollen gums near the tooth.
  • A lesion or abscess near the affected tooth that oozes pus, causing an unpleasant taste and bad breath.

Any of these signs can indicate a need to have a root canal procedure. Endodontists are uniquely qualified and experienced in diagnosing and performing root canal procedures, and many regular dentists refer patients for this reason.

What Happens During a Root Canal Procedure?

During a root canal procedure, the endodontist begins by numbing the area of the mouth by with a local anesthetic. After that, the affected tooth is isolated from the rest of the teeth using a dental dam. Next, an opening is made through the tooth enamel and dentin of the crown into the pulp chamber and canal where the nerves are located. The infected or damaged tissue is removed using specially designed endodontic instruments, and the canal and chamber are then flushed out using an antibacterial cleansing solution.

Filling the Tooth Chamber or Root Canal

Filling the tooth requires the canals to be shaped using tiny dental instruments called files. After shaping the canals are cleaned and disinfected again and then filled with a rubber-like dental material called Gutta Percha. The material is warmed to mold itself to the canal’s shape, so it fits snuggly against the inner walls of the tooth. The tooth opening is sealed with dental cement to prevent bacteria from entering in the future. After your root canal procedure, you will return to your dentist to determine whether you need a crown or composite restoration to cover the tooth.

Saving a Natural Tooth

Having a timely root canal procedure can help patients save their natural teeth, even when they are badly damaged. That’s because some teeth that in the past required root canal procedures can now be treated with nerve regenerative procedures. This process uses biodegradable tooth regeneration scaffolding made from collagen, fibrin, or synthetic polymers, which encourages the tooth to repair itself. Your Endodontists will determine if one of these procedures could work for you.

Placing a Dental Implant

If the tooth structure is damaged too badly to support restoration, the endodontist could recommend replacing it with a dental implant. This requires inserting a Titanium post into the jawbone, and, once it has healed, mounting an artificial tooth onto it.

Endodontic treatment helps patients maintain the functionality of their teeth, continue eating the foods they enjoy, and reduces the need for ongoing dental work. With proper care, most teeth that have had root canal treatment can last a lifetime. And if that isn’t important, we don’t know what is.

Contact Professional Endodontics today for more information on root canal treatment, or to schedule an appointment with our qualified, compassionate team.