Endodontists are dentists who specialise in maintaining teeth through endodontic therapy/root canal treatment. Endo is a Greek word meaning ‘within’ and odontic is Greek for tooth. Thus, endodontics literally means within the tooth. All dental students receive education and training in the diagnosis of endodontic disease and therapy. During their career general dentists seek further training and education in the latest developments in the field of endodontics. Despite this not every tooth can be successfully diagnosed and treated by a general dentist. Endodontists specialise in successfully treating such teeth.
What is root canal therapy and what happens during endodontic treatment?
Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected. Common reasons for inflammation or infection include deep cavities, repeated dental procedures (fillings or crowns), cracks, or trauma. If an irritated or infected pulp is not treated the condition will continue to worsen and a significant abscess with swelling and pain can develop. Serious medical complications can arise if such teeth are not treated.
A tooth may ache or be very sensitive but thanks to modern local anaesthetics and techniques no pain should be felt during treatment. In order to prevent contamination of the tooth it is necessary to isolate the tooth with a latex or latex-free "rubber dam".
Most endodontic treatment can be completed in one to two appointments. Occasionally a case is complex enough that treatment over an extended period is necessary. The goal is to stop the disease process and allow the tooth become pain-free and useful once again.
Modern root canal/endodontic therapies have a 90+% rate of success. Endodontists will teeth that are difficult as well as retreat teeth that have become problematic. Endodontic microsurgery is another treatment option that can save a tooth.
Occasionally a tooth that had endodontic treatment begins to experience problems. This may occur years after the initial treatment or it may be a treated tooth that never felt right despite treatment. Endodontic retreatment is often necessary for such teeth to heal and is almost exclusively performed by certified endodontists.
Occasionally, despite endodontic treatment or retreatment a tooth becomes infected or problematic. Endodontic microsurgery has a much higher success rate than traditional root-end surgery (i.e. apicoectomy); it can save a tooth that would otherwise require extraction.
For more information about endodontics please visit the following sites:
Canadian Academy of Endodontics/Académie Canadienne D’Endodontie: www.caendo.ca
British Endodontic Society: www.britishendodonticsociety.org.uk
American Association of Endodontists: www.aae.org