Frequently Asked Questions About Endodontics

What is an endodontist, and why should I see one for my root canal treatment?

An endodontist is a dentist who has completed a 2 or 3 year specialty program beyond dental school that focuses on endodontic (root canal) therapy. This additional training expands extensively on the dental school endodontic curriculum. As specialists, endodontists specifically perform root canal treatment and associated procedures. These include complex root canal therapy, retreatments of existing root canals, root-end surgeries, whitening of root canal treated teeth and treatment of traumatic injuries in children and adults.

What is an apicoectomy?

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An apicoectomy, or root-end resection, is the most common surgical procedure performed to save a tooth should infection or inflamation persist following a root canal.

For a large PDF of each of these images, simply click on the image. You will need a pdf reader to view the larger image.

In this image the gum has been retracted and the infected tissue is shown being removed.

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After the removal of the diseased tissue and the root tip, the tip is sealed with a small filling, the gum flap is sutured back in place to aid the tissue to properly heal.


After a period of months, the bone heals around the end of the root.

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Generally the only alternative to endodontic surgery is extraction of the affected tooth. It must then be replaced with a bridge, a removable partial denture or an implant to restore proper chewing and to prevent adjacent teeth from shifting. Because these alternative procedures usually require dental procedures on adjacent health teeth, endodontic surgey is usually the most cost-effective approach when faced with a root infection.

What is endodontic (root canal) treatment?

Root canal treatment is the procedure where diseased tissue and debris are removed from the inside of the tooth. An opening is made through the biting surface of the tooth (occlusal surface) to access the tissue inside. The tissue is then removed and the canals are cleansed with the use of files and antibacterial rinses. The resulting space is then filled with a sterile material and a temporary filling is placed in the opening. Then, a final restoration will be placed by your dentist.

Why do I need endodontic (root canal) treatment?

Root canal treatment is a way to help you save your natural tooth. You may need root canal treatment because of a cavity (tooth decay) or because of an abscess at the end of the tooth roots. Root canal treatment is occasionally performed to facilitate restoring a tooth and to keep it functional.

Will endodontic (root canal) treatment hurt?

This is the question that endodontists are asked most frequently. The procedure should not be uncomforable. Modern dentistry has created wonderful options for anesthesia and pain management. Dr. Breeland wants this to be a pleasant experience and will do everything she can to keep you comfortable.

What happens after endodontic (root canal) treatment?

Discomfort
You may experience some discomfort following root canal treatment. You may notice this if you tap on the tooth or push on it with your tongue or finger. This sensitivity can usually be managed by over-the-counter medications.

Final Filling
There will be a temporary filling in the tooth after the root canal treatment is completed. This temporary filling can seal the opening for up to 4 weeks. We recommend that you see your dentist for a definitive filling/crown within this time period. If you are still experiencing symptoms, we request that you contact our office prior to seeing your dentist for the final restoration. Failure to have a definitive filling placed can lead to re-contamination of the root canal system and the need for a root canal retreatment to be performed resulting in additional time and expense for you.

Are endodontic (root canal) procedures and materials safe?

Research on root canal therapy done as early as the 1930s and 40s shows no correlation between root canal therapy and general physical illness. The presence of bacteria in the mouth has been proven, even in individuals who do not have any dental disease (cavities, gum disease, etc). Additional references and information can be found at http://www.aae.org/patients/patientinfo/rootcanalmyths.htm. Dr. Breeland is ready to answer any questions you may have regarding root canal treatment and your health.

What happens if I don’t have endodontic (root canal) treatment?

If you choose to delay or decline treatment, several things may happen. You may develop pain or the tooth may abscess, creating a swelling of the gums, face or jaw that may be dangerous. The other concern is that bone may be lost around the roots of the tooth in response to the chronic infection. This can lead to mobility of the tooth and eventual loss of the tooth.

What are my other options?

As a consumer you deserve to have all possible information prior to making any decisions about your healthcare. Options include extraction of the tooth and replacement with either a dental implant (screw placed in the bone with a false tooth to replace the missing one), bridge (two crowns cemented on the teeth on either side with a false tooth in the center) or a removable partial denture (a false tooth/teeth to replace the missing tooth/teeth that can be removed from the mouth)

Despite all of the advancements in dentistry, there is no real replacement for your natural teeth. The loss of even one tooth can cause shifting and changes in the bite (occlusion) that may require extensive treatment to correct.

Dr. Breeland is happy to discuss your treatment options with you at your visit. Your dentist is a wonderful resource as well.

How much will the endodontic (root canal) treatment cost?

The fees depend on several things, including root canal anatomy, location of the tooth in the mouth, the need for medications inside the tooth, what type of filling materials are used and if the procedure is a retreatment of previous root canal therapy or a surgical procedure.

Our staff is happy to provide you with a cost range based on the treatment that you require. A more specific fee can be provided at your evaluation or treatment appointment following Dr. Breeland's evaluation of your specific tooth.