Endodontics is a specialty of dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases and injuries to the dental pulp and surrounding tissues. The dental pulp is the soft tissue that contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue that lies within the tooth’s root canal. Endodontists are dentists who specialize in performing root canal therapy, which involves removing the infected or damaged pulp and replacing it with a filling material to preserve the tooth.
Why might you need it.
Endodontic treatment may be necessary when the dental pulp, which is the soft tissue inside the tooth, becomes inflamed or infected. This can occur due to various reasons, including deep decay, cracked or broken teeth, trauma, or repeated dental procedures on the same tooth. The dental pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissues that help nourish and support the tooth. When the pulp is damaged or infected, it can cause pain, sensitivity, and swelling in the surrounding tissues. If left untreated, the infection can spread to other areas of the mouth or body and cause further complications.
Endodontic treatment is typically performed to save the damaged tooth and prevent the need for extraction. The procedure involves removing the damaged pulp, cleaning and shaping the root canals, and filling them with a filling material. This process helps to eliminate the infection, relieve pain, and restore the function of the tooth.
Symptoms that may indicate the need for endodontic treatment include severe toothache, sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, swelling and tenderness in the gums, and darkening or discoloration of the tooth. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a dentist or endodontist for an evaluation to determine if endodontic treatment is necessary.
The endodontic procedure, also known as root canal therapy, typically involves several steps:
- Diagnosis: The dentist or endodontist will perform a thorough examination, including taking X-rays, to determine the extent of the damage to the tooth and whether endodontic treatment is necessary.
- Anesthesia: The dentist or endodontist will administer local anesthesia to numb the affected area.
- Access: The dentist or endodontist will create an access hole in the top of the tooth to access the pulp chamber and root canals.
- Cleaning: The dentist or endodontist will use specialized instruments to remove the damaged or infected pulp from the root canals and shape them to receive the filling material.
- Filling: Once the root canals are cleaned and shaped, the dentist or endodontist will fill them with a filling material, usually a rubber-like material called gutta-percha.
- Sealing: The access hole in the tooth is then sealed with a temporary filling. A permanent filling or crown may be placed at a later appointment to protect and restore the tooth.
- Follow-up: The dentist or endodontist will schedule a follow-up appointment to check the healing of the tooth and determine if any additional treatment is necessary.
The endodontic procedure typically takes one or two appointments to complete, depending on the extent of the damage to the tooth. The procedure is usually painless, as the anesthesia numbs the affected area. After the procedure, the tooth may be sore or tender for a few days, but this can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers and should subside within a week. With proper care, a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment can last a lifetime.