Endodontic FAQ

What is endodontics?

Endodontics is a branch of dentistry recognized by the American Dental Association involving 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, 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 infection and inflammation. After successful endodontic treatment, the tooth continues to perform normally.

Is root canal treatment painful?

Despite its poor reputation, root canal treatment itself should not be painful. The pain that most people associate with root canal treatment is actually the pain that they experience prior to treatment. Dr. Sim believes that with proper anesthesia, having root canal treatment should be a relatively painless procedure, very similar to having restorative treatment (i.e. fillings).

Are there any alternatives to root canal treatment?

Yes. However, there are only two alternatives, neither of which is advisable in most cases. One option is to ignore the problem and do nothing. In cases of active infection, choosing this option may result is worsening of the condition and eventual loss of the tooth. The second option is to extract the tooth. This would remove the infection, but should you choose to replace the missing tooth , the process could be costly and time consuming.

Why are X-rays (radiographs) necessary for root canal treatment?

Due to the fact that we are evaluating and treating areas of the tooth that are hidden under the gumline, radiographs are essential for proper endodontic diagnosis and treatment. While we never take unnecessary images, several radiographs are usually required for proper treatment. Because we use digital radiography, exposure to radiation is reduced by up to 90% when compared to traditional film radiography.

Speaking of X-rays, I have one from my dentist. Why do you need to take another?

We need to be sure that the radiograph shows the appropriate parts of the tooth, and that there have been no changes to the affected area. Sometimes, infections can worsen very quickly. It is best to diagnose a tooth based on how it presents on the day of your treatment, not how it was yesterday or last week.

What happens after treatment?

When your root canal therapy has been completed, a record of your treatment will be sent to your general dentist. You should contact his/her office for a follow-up restoration within a few weeks of completion at our office. Your general dentist will decide on what type of restoration is necessary to protect your tooth.

Will I be able to go to work after my appointment?

Your root canal treatment appointment should be very similar to having a filling done at your family dentist’s office. We recommend that you make plans according to how you normally feel after dental treatment. Your mouth will likely be numb, so we don’t recommend scheduling speaking engagements.