What is endodontics?

Endodontics is a branch of dentistry recognized by the American Dental Association involving diagnosis and treatment of the pulp (root canal) and surrounding tissues of the tooth. When you look at your tooth in the mirror, what you see is the crown. The rest of the tooth, the portion hidden beneath the gum line, is called the root. Though the outer portion of the root is a hard tissue called dentin, the inside channel or “root canal” contains a pulp of soft tissue, blood vessels and nerves. Bacteria that are introduced into the pulp as a result of tooth decay, trauma, periodontal disease, tooth fracture or other problems, can severely damage the pulp. When that happens, an endodontic specialist removes the diseased pulp to save the tooth and prevent further inflammation and infection. After successful endodontic treatment, the tooth continues to perform normally.

As an endodontic patient, what should I expect?

You will be given a comprehensive examination to diagnose the cause of pain and the extent of pulpal injury in order to determine if the tooth is a good candidate for endodontic therapy. If indicated, the doctor will provide non-surgical treatment to eliminate the diseased pulp. This injured pulp will be removed, and the root canal system will be thoroughly cleaned and sealed.

Under certain circumstances, microsurgery may be indicated. We are experts in performing this procedure and utilize sophisticated equipment to ensure the best result.

How is root canal therapy performed?

The injured pulp is removed, and the root canal system is thoroughly cleaned and sealed. This therapy usually involves local anesthesia and may be completed in one or more visits depending on the treatment required. Success for this type of treatment occurs in more than 90% of cases. If your tooth is not amenable to endodontic treatment or the chance of success is unfavorable, you will be informed at the time of consultation or at the point that this becomes evident. We use local anesthesia to eliminate discomfort. You will be able to drive home after your treatment, and you probably will be comfortable returning to your normal routine.

Why have I been referred to an endodontist for my cracked tooth?

All dentists are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of cracked teeth in dental school. Some cracked teeth, however, can be especially difficult to diagnose and treatment may involve root canal therapy. That’s why you have been referred to an endodontist.

Endodontists are dentists with at least two additional years of education that include the diagnosis and treatment of unusual dental pain. Cracked tooth pain often comes from damage to the inner soft tissue of the tooth, the pulp. Endodontic treatment, also known as root canal treatment, can relieve that pain.

Early diagnosis is extremely important. Like cracks in a windshield, cracks in teeth often start small and progress slowly. The sooner a crack is detected and treated, the better the chance of saving your tooth. The endodontist’s special training and experience can be valuable when a cracked tooth is suspected.

Will my cracked tooth completely heal?

Unlike a broken bone, the fracture in a cracked tooth will never heal. In spite of treatment, some cracks may continue to progress and separate, resulting in loss of the tooth. Placement of a crown on a cracked tooth provides maximum protection, but does not guarantee success in all cases.

The treatment you receive for your cracked tooth is important because it will relieve pain and reduce the likelihood that the crack will worsen. Once treated, most cracked teeth continue to function and provide years of comfortable chewing. Talk to your dentist and/or endodontist about your particular diagnosis and treatment recommendations. They will advise you on how to keep your natural teeth and achieve optimum dental health.

What happens after treatment?

When your root canal therapy has been completed, a report of your treatment will be sent to your restorative dentist. You should contact their office within one week to schedule an appointment for your definitive restoration. Your restorative dentist will decide what type of restoration is necessary to protect your tooth. It is rare for endodontic patients to experience complications after routine endodontic treatment or microsurgery. If a problem does occur, we are available at all times to respond. To prevent further decay, continue to practice good dental hygiene.

How much will it cost?

The cost associated with this procedure varies depending on factors such as the severity of damage to the affected tooth and which tooth is affected. In general, endodontic treatment and restoration of the natural tooth are less expensive than the alternative of tooth removal and replacement with an artificial tooth. An extracted tooth must be replaced with a bridge or implant to restore chewing function and prevent adjacent teeth from shifting. These procedures tend to cost more than endodontic treatment and appropriate restoration.