If your dentist has recently recommended endodontics, you are probably wondering: what is endodontic treatment, and how will it affect my tooth? If you break down the structure of the word from the Greek origins, it explains the endodontic treatment meaning well: “endo” means inside, and “odont” means tooth. So, an endodontic treatment is a procedure to treat the inside of the tooth – often saving a tooth when a serious infection occurs.
The most common and well-known endodontic treatment is a root canal. Still, there are other specialty services that fall in this category, such as retreatment, surgery, dental implants, and reconstruction for traumatic dental injuries.
What Is the Most Important Part of Endodontic Treatment?
The most important element of an endodontic treatment is saving the tooth. Years ago, before modern dental technology was available, a damaged or severely infected tooth needed to be extracted. Now, endodontic treatments can save the tooth and avoid or delay the need to remove the tooth.
Usually, the primary goal of an endodontic treatment is to eliminate infected tissue in the middle of the tooth. For example, if a cavity is left untreated and it spreads deeper into the tooth, then it might be necessary to take out the pulp in order to eliminate the infection.
Another example is the retreatment of a tooth, which involves putting a filling on the root end of the tooth, often accessed through a small incision in the gums.
Many times, endodontic treatments must also include some type of dental restoration. For example, if a tooth requires a root canal, then the remaining tooth structure is weakened after the internal portions of the tooth have been removed. So, a crown (onlay) or inlay can be placed to strengthen the tooth and ensure optional functionality.
What Is the Disadvantage of Endodontic Treatment?
One drawback to having an endodontic treatment is that it often requires multiple visits, depending on the severity of your tooth infection. Why do root canals take 2 visits? Your dentist might place an antibiotic medication into the middle of the tooth and then ask you to return for another appointment to finish the treatment. Or you might need to wait for the crown to be created, and then the crown will be bonded to your tooth during the second appointment.
Another disadvantage is that endodontic treatment will weaken the tooth since a hole needs to be drilled into the middle of the tooth (causing a weakening of the overall tooth structure). Your dentist can correct this problem by placing a crown on the tooth receiving the treatment.
What Are the Five Stages of Endodontic Treatment?
Endodontic treatments can be broken down into five distinct phases:
- Evaluation and Diagnosis: The first step is determining whether the interior parts of the tooth have been damaged. If there is decay or trauma, the dentist will evaluate the tooth with a visual exam and digital imaging to see if the pulp has been affected.
- Removing the Tooth Pulp: Once it is determined that you need a root canal or other type of endodontic treatment, then the treatment will begin. A local anesthetic will be applied. Then, the dentist starts by drilling a hole into the tooth to access the inner area and then removes the infected pulp.
- Cleaning the Tooth: Now that the pulp is gone, the inside of the tooth can be cleaned and disinfected. The area is scraped clean and flushed using sodium hypochlorite to kill the bacteria. If it is a severe infection, it might be necessary to pack the tooth with antibiotic medication before you return for a follow-up appointment (about a week later) to finish the treatment.
- Sealing the Tooth: When the doctor is confident that the tooth has been cleaned properly, then it’s time to seal the tooth. Material is placed into the middle of the tooth, filling in the empty space and preventing issues in the future.
- Tooth Restoration: At this point, the endodontic treatment is finished. But your full treatment plan isn’t complete until the tooth restoration is also done. Depending on the amount of tooth that was removed, you will likely have a full crown or an inlay placed, customized to the exact shape, size, and color of the tooth.
What Is the Most Painful Part of a Root Canal?
Endodontic treatments are a bit more complex compared to basic fillings. But the good news is that the technology has come a long way over the years, making it more comfortable than ever to have this treatment.
Getting a root canal or another type of endodontic treatment is pain-free since local anesthetic is used during the appointment. Once the root canal is done, you will feel relief from the toothache you had before the treatment.
So, many patients agree that the most painful part of the root canal is before the treatment due to the throbbing infection within the tooth. Some patients have a bit of tenderness after the endodontic treatment but no severe pain since the pulp and nerves have been removed from the tooth.
A Dental Specialist for Endodontic Treatment
Not all dentists have specialized training for endodontic treatments. So, some dentists will refer patients to visit a specialist. At myDental, we are proud to offer endodontic treatments and other specialized services in our office.