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, such as Dr. Desir or Dr. St. Paul, removes the diseased pulp to save the tooth and prevent further infection and inflammation. After successful endodontic treatment, the tooth continues to perform normally.

I’m worried about x-rays. Should I be?

No. While x-rays will be necessary during your endodontic treatment, we use an advanced non-film computerized system, called digital radiography, that produces radiation levels up to 90 percent lower than those of already low dose conventional dental x-ray machinery. These digital images can be optimized, archived, printed and sent to cotherapists via e-mail.

What about infection?

Again, there’s no need for concern. We adhere to the most rigorous standards of infection control advocated by OSHA, the Centers for Disease Control and the American Dental Association. We utilize autoclave sterilization and barrier techniques to eliminate any risk of infection.

What happens after root canal treatment?

When your root canal therapy has been completed, a record of your treatment will be sent to your restorative dentist. You should contact his office for a follow-up restoration within a few weeks of completion at our office. Your restorative dentist will decide on 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, however, we are available at all times to respond.

Are there any alternatives to root canal treatment ?

Once the dental pulp is diseased, the only alternative to root canal treatment is extraction. Replacing the tooth with a bridge, implant, or partial denture is generally more costly than the root canal treatment and crown.

Is root canal treatment painful?

Root canal treatment usually involves no more discomfort than a routine filling appointment. In fact, most Root Canal Treatment relieves pain. Most stories of painful root canals are a holdover from the days before modern techniques and effective anesthetics were available.

What are we doing for your comfort?

We provide oral conscious sedation for our patients who are especially fearful or have other issues. Digital Radiography is utilized whereby the patient is exposed to 90% less radiation with computer enhanced stored images. We also use electronic apex locators (particularly useful for pregnant patients). We utilize the surgical operating microscope which has increased the success rate in Endodontics and also facilitates the treatment of difficult cases in one appointment. Patient comfort is our primary concern.

Will I need to return to my general dentist?

Yes! When you complete your root canal therapy, we put a temporary filling in the crown of your teeth. The tooth continues to draw its nourishment from the surrounding tissues, but it needs to be permanently restored. As an endodontist, my practice is limited to endodontic procedures, so you must return to your general dentist for permanent restoration. The type of restoration you receive will depend on the location and the condition of the tooth. It is important to see your general dentist promptly because the temporary filling now in place will loosen with time.

How long will the treatment take?

Most cases can be done in one visit, though complex cases may require additional appointments. You should plan on one to two hours for each visit. Because of the long appointments, we request that parents make arrangements for children to stay at home.

What may occur if I elect not to have root canal therapy and my tooth goes untreated?

If a diseased or damaged pulp is not removed, the tooth and surrounding tissues may become inflamed and/or infected, eventually resulting in an abscess. Left untreated, ultimately the tooth will have to be removed.

Why should I have root canal therapy rather than have the tooth extracted?

Our own natural teeth are always best. Authorities agree that artificial substitutes do not function or appear quite as well as natural teeth. In addition, extraction and replacement is usually much more costly.

What can I expect during root canal therapy?

Root canal therapy is often performed in one or two visits and involves the following steps:

  • Local anesthetic is administered
  • A small opening is made in the crown of your tooth. Very small instruments are used to remove the pulp from the pulp chamber and root canals
  • Root canals are filled with a biocompatible material called gutta percha. A temporary filling is placed to close the opening; your general dentist will replace this with a permanent restoration

What should I expect after my endodontic treatment?

Endodontic treatment has now been completed. The root canal system has been permanently sealed. However, the outer surface is sealed with a temporary restoration. A follow-up restoration must be placed to protect your tooth against fracture and decay. Please telephone your restorative dentist for an appointment. A complete report of treatment will be sent to your restorative dentist. Included in your treatment is a follow-up examination to evaluate the progress of healing. This appointment will require only a few minutes and no additional fee will be charged for the first check-up visit. Please call for an appointment during the following month.

Your tooth is more prone to fracture immediately after endodontic treatment. You should chew on the other side until your restorative dentist has placed a core build-up and a protective restoration, usually a crown. If your tooth’s strength is seriously compromised, Drs. Desir or St. Paul or your restorative dentist may place a post and core build-up inside the tooth. Your restorative dentist and endodontist will determine the appropriate restoration to best protect your tooth.

If you have any questions, please call our office at McDonough Endodontic Center Phone Number 770-954-0072