An endodontist treats problems of the dental pulp, the soft tissue within the tooth that contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue which helps create the surrounding hard tissue that makes up the outside of the tooth. The pulp extends from the crown of the tooth to the tips of the roots and into the surrounding tissue. Dental pulp is vital to the growth and development of healthy teeth, but is not necessarily needed once the tooth has fully matured.
Endodontic treatment is needed when the dental pulp becomes infected or inflamed. This may occur as a result of decay, repeated dental procedures, a crack or chip in the tooth or injury with no visible signs of damage. When the pulp is affected, it can lead to pain or the development of an abscess, as well as increased sensitivity, tenderness and discoloration.
Problems within the dental pulp can often be identified through X-ray images. Occasionally, these problems do not show up on an X-ray, despite the patient's complaints of related symptoms. In such cases, a diagnostic root canal may be performed to help identify tiny holes or cracks in the tooth that may be the cause of dental pulp damage.
Sometimes referred to as the practice of root canal therapy, endodontics encompasses a wide range of surgical and non-surgical procedures that keep the teeth free from diseases and injuries of the pulp and surrounding tissue. Like other dental specialties, the goal of endodontics is to maintain good oral health. Common endodontic procedures include root canal and apicoectomy.
The most common endodontic procedure is a root canal, which can diagnose and treat damage in the dental pulp. A hole is drilled into the tooth and thoroughly cleansed from the inside. The hole is carefully sealed so no dirt or bacteria can reenter the tooth. A filling is needed after the procedure to restore the appearance of the tooth and prevent further damage.
Also known as root end resection, apicoectomy involves the removal of infected tissue and the end of the root. This procedure is most commonly performed after an unsuccessful root canal procedure. A filling is needed after the procedure to restore the appearance of the tooth and prevent further damage.
Recovery from Endodontic Treatment
After endodontic treatment, patients may experience pain, swelling and increased sensitivity in the treated area for one to two days. Anti-inflammatory medication can be helpful to treat the pain and swelling. After recovery, most patients report that their treated tooth feels the same as their natural teeth and have no problems eating, speaking or smiling.
- Medline Plus
- National Institutes of Health
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- U.S. National Library of Medicine