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What is endodontics?

This is a dental specialty that is concerned with the study and treatment of the dental pulp, which is the soft inner tissue found within a tooth. The word is derived from two Greek words namely ‘endo’ which means inside and ‘odont’ which means tooth. An endodontist is a dentist who has additional skills and training in the treatment of endodontic conditions.

Types of dental problems treated

Root canal treatment
This is a form of treatment that is performed under local anesthesia in order to remove a damaged nerve and possibly infected pulp to save the tooth. The expert uses various tools to remove the inflamed or infected pulp and then cleans and disinfects the tooth to prevent infection. After disinfecting the tooth, the endodontist uses a rubber-like material called gutta-percha to fill and seal the cavity. Once this is done, the tooth is generally restored using a crown or filling for long term protection. Treatment options for teeth that are infected but are not suitable for endodontics are limited – and generally an extraction is all that is possible

Endodontic re-treatment
This is a form of treatment that is provided to individuals who have already had root canal treatment. Root canal treatment can become painful or diseased months or even years since the first treatment was done. This reasons for the failure of the treatment are not well understood but can be caused by a poor initial treatment or a complex canal system. Re-treatment is complex and not always possible – especially if a large post is present in the tooth.

Endodontic surgery
This is a procedure that helps to locate small fractures or hidden canals which were not detected by xrays or previous nonsurgical root canal procedure. The procedure helps to remove any calcium deposits or to treat damaged root surfaces or the surrounding bone. A common surgical procedure that is undertaken is the apicectomy or root end resection. These services are provided either by oral surgeons or endodontists depending on the area.

Concerns over root canal treatments

Many people are worried about having a root canal as they have heard that the procedure is painful.  There is no reason to be anxious as specialists are trained to manage and deal with any pain.  Once the nerve is removed from the tooth, the procedures are generally painless.

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root canal


Important terms

Canal – this the part of the tooth that contains the nerve, blood vessel and lymphatic system – these are removed when an endodontic procedure is undertaken.

Gutta perhca – this the soft, rubbery material that is used to fill the root canal once cleaned – it may be warmed prior to placement

Post – a structure placed in the root canal system that enables a crown or other structure to be secured

Specialist – someone who is on the General Dental Council specialist list for endodontics


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