How An Endodontist Performs Root Canals: An Introduction

Often general and primary dentists provide root canals in cases of minor root canal exposure, infection, and decay. Still, when those dentists aren’t able to provide more extensive treatment, those patients are recommended to an endodontist. Endodontists often handle more complex situations involving root canals, and root canal procedures are a specialty of ours because of our deeper understanding of the root channels, pulp tissue, and nerves that keep the tooth alive. While root canal procedures may be terrifying in concept to new patients, we’re here as root canal specialists to provide you with a fully fleshed-out guide for how endodontists treat root canal problems.

Defining The Root Canal and Root Canal Therapy

The term “root canal” is often an interchangeable phrase used in dentistry and has multiple definitions. Root canals refer to both the root canal treatment and the anatomical area of the tooth. While many dentists often used the term interchangeably when diagnosing conditions, endodontists understand the differences. They can properly diagnose complex diseases in the dental pulp and root canal channels that cause tooth pain and infections. Here, we’ll define both uses of the term more exclusively to provide you with a better understanding of how root canals work:

  • Root Canal: When referring to its anatomy, the root canal is the hollow channels that run inside the tooth’s roots, providing the protective casings for the dental pulp and nerves to thrive in a healthy environment. The dental pulp contains connective tissues and cells called odontoblasts to provide the tooth’s “life” and notify the body of infection and decay. The pulp, root channels, and dentin all make up the endodontium, a complex framework that gives the tooth’s ability to sense pain and maintain its internal stability. When infection, trauma, and decay go beyond the enamel, and past the dentin, the root channels become highly vulnerable, often leading to abscesses in the tooth’s pulp, causing extensive pain that requires treatment.
  • Root Canal Therapy: The term “root canal” is also used to describe the treatment dentists perform to correct infections and decay within the root canal channels. Root canals, or root canal therapy, aims to return the tooth to a stable state by removing the dead, infected tissues within the channels and disinfecting the inside of the tooth to prevent future infections and decay. A root canal procedure is generally performed to rinse the system and cement the inside of the tooth, keeping the external structure sound. However, one common detail often missed by patients is that once the pulp and tissue are removed, the tooth becomes dead, only leaving the external structure of the tooth in place.

When Are Root Canal Therapies Used?

Endodontists often have to go through a specific set of criteria to determine whether or not a patient would need a root canal treatment. Endodontists specialize in diagnosing the source of the pain from an endodontic origin, meaning the source must come from the dentin-pulp complex and not from other conditions such as teeth grinding, TMJ disorder sinus-related tooth pain. If the source of the pain comes from the endodontium, then it can be properly treated.

So, what conditions qualify for a root canal? Various conditions can qualify, and when you visit an endodontist for your root canal treatment, they’ll often diagnose the following conditions before proceeding:

Pulp Exposure – General pulp exposure of any kind will often require a root canal due to its high vulnerability to bacteria within the mouth, making it a great risk for the pulp to become inflamed and die off.

Irreversible Pulpitis – Also called inflammation of the inner pulp, the pulp becomes so inflamed that the damage caused is irreversible because the pulp cannot heal itself.

Apical Periodontitis – When the inflammation of the periodontium, or gums, occurs around the tooth’s root, that infection could cause the root canals to deteriorate and infect the root’s pulp.

Pulp Necrosis – This condition is when the pulp inside the tooth dies, often resulting from chronic stages of pulpitis.

Many common tooth conditions, such as cavities, tooth trauma, improper restorations, and gum disease, will often lead to the development of the listed conditions above. Next, determine whether a root canal is needed endodontist will need to determine whether the tooth can be saved. Root canals are best recommended when there is a sufficient amount of tooth left to be saved. In certain scenarios, if there is an insufficient amount of tooth left or vertical fractures that impact the tooth in a certain way that obstructs the tooth’s integrity, then the tooth cannot be saved with a root canal procedure.

However, if a root canal can be performed as the least expensive option, it’s highly recommended. As the patient, root canal procedures can be an inexpensive way to help save the infected, decaying tooth from losing its structure and spread the infection further out to other mouth and body areas. Leaving a tooth untreated can cause even more complications and increase the rate of decay and infection faster.

Are Root Canal Treatments Painful?

As a general rule of good dentistry, no procedure should be painful. Tooth extractions and root canals are often perceived as painful either due to depictions of these procedures, a lack of understanding of the tools used, and previous dentists’ previous experiences with poor work ethics. However, endodontists have an immense amount of responsibility and integrity when working with patient’s teeth. They should always take in mind the patient’s comfort level and pain sensations when performing treatments. Under organizations such as the American Association of Endodontists, endodontists require years of advanced medical training and specialization to begin working with patients. They often require internships with other practices to perform surgical procedures with caution and safety in mind.

When it comes to a root canal, different techniques can be performed to assure that the patient’s receiving the best quality care possible, and will prescribe pain medications and antibiotics to alleviate the pain that radiates after the procedure. Overall, when it comes to your dental health, all aspects of your condition will be taken into mind and, most of all, your comfort. To get a root canal treatment, contact your primary dentist or endodontist for more information about this treatment.

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