Endodontics is a dental specialty that focuses on diseases of the dental pulp and its supporting structures. Endodontists perform a wide range of advanced dental procedures, including root canals, related surgery, and restoration of damaged teeth. As specialists, endodontists are dentists that have completed at least two years of postgraduate training following dental school. General dentists can perform root canals, but often refer their patients to endodontists when diagnosis or treatment is more complex than usual. Because endodontists specialize in root canals and related treatments, an endodontist can often preserve and restore your natural teeth in complicated cases that might otherwise require extraction.
The most common reasons our patients visit us include pain or sensitivity due to a problem tooth, or referral by a general dentist for complex endodontic treatment, such as a root canal or root canal revision. A root canal or other endodontic procedure is needed when the pulp inside your tooth becomes inflamed or infected. This can happen because of decay, cracks or fractures in the tooth, repeated dental procedures, or trauma. If you don’t seek treatment for your inflammation or infection, it can become painful or develop an abscess. In many cases, pain may be the reason you were referred to us. However, sometimes patients don’t feel pain at all, and are referred because their dentist discovered a problem during a routine dental visit. It is important to treat endodontic problems early, to reduce the potential for pain and improve dental outcomes.
Most endodontic procedures take 1 to 2 appointments. At the first appointment, we remove the pulp, meticulously clean and shape the canals, and fill them with an antimicrobial medication and a temporary filling. In order to ensure all signs of infection are gone, we leave the medication in place for several weeks. At the second appointment, we remove the medication, seal the canals to prevent re-infection, and finish treatment. In most cases, your general dentist will then apply the permanent crown.
With modern anesthetics, most endodontic treatments are not painful. When problems are treated early, root canal procedures should feel about the same as a standard filling. For the majority of our patients, oral sedation and a local anesthetic are all that is needed to prevent pain. When patients have severe dental anxiety, or are coming to us because of severe pain, we can prescribe IV medication or nitrous oxide. In most cases, any pain felt during a root canal procedure is caused by the underlying problem — the infected or inflamed pulp — and not the procedure itself. Because of this, it’s important to seek treatment before you are in extreme pain whenever possible. A successful endodontic procedure will heal your tooth, and ensure you are pain-free following your treatment.
As we like to say at Frisco Endodontics, your natural teeth are your best teeth. Instead of extracting your teeth and replacing them with dental implants, we work to preserve your natural teeth whenever possible. To understand how endodontics can help us achieve this goal, it helps to understand the anatomy of your teeth. Each tooth is comprised of a hard outer layer called enamel, an inner supportive layer called dentin, and a central layer called the pulp, which contains the blood vessels, nerves and tissue needed for tooth development. Blood vessels enter the tooth through its root, and supply nourishment to the pulp through narrow passages called root canals. When the pulp becomes inflamed or infected, it is necessary to remove the pulp, clean the canals, and seal them off to prevent further infection. Because the pulp is essential only for initial tooth development, removing it does not cause the tooth to die. The surrounding tissues continue to nourish the tooth, making it possible to preserve your natural teeth while removing the source of inflammation or infection.