What is an Endodontist?

If you’re here, you’re already familiar with dentists. They’re the doctors keeping your mouth in tip-top shape — twice a year, if you follow our general guidelines. But sometimes our oral health is more complex, requiring a specialist, like an orthodontist, periodontist, maxillofacial surgeon, or endodontist. Here’s what you need to know before seeing an endodontist.

Endodontist or Dentist?

Endo is actually Greek for “inside”, so the practice of endodontics deals with what’s going on inside your tooth: the nerves and blood vessels and the pathway they travel through to the rest of your body. An endodontist trains as a dentist and then spends another two to three years focused on diagnosing and treating tooth pain and performing root canals. These are some of the most specialized dentists around; their practice relies on deft hand-eye coordination and staying on top of the latest technology. Given the extra time and skill required, not even three percent of dentists go on to become endodontists — and with proper care of your teeth and gums, it’s rare you’ll encounter one in your lifetime.

What Does an Endodontist do?

Diagnosing and treating pain is a very simple explanation of the complex job of an endodontist. These specialists are sometimes referred to as “teeth savers”; that’s because they are equipped to treat even the most diseased tooth, rather than pulling it. Your pain, or sometimes a sensitivity to hot and cold, could be the result of decay, a crack in the tooth, or an infection. Endodontists use x-rays and physical exams to determine the cause of that pain. They might find that the pulp (nerves and blood vessels inside your tooth) is inflamed, infected, and either temporarily or irreversibly damaged.

Once the source of the pain is determined, an endodontist could perform any number of procedures — the most common or familiar being a root canal . This is a serious treatment, but with an easy-to-understand explanation. Imagine cleaning the inside of a bottle: a small hole is made on the crown of your tooth and an instrument is threaded through to first clean the hard-to-reach interior and then fill the space.

Sometimes after a root canal, the endodontist will need to perform a retreatment, where the filling is removed and the space is cleaned and filled once again. On occasion, the doctor might need to perform surgery if pain or infection persists around the bottom of the tooth after root canal. Luckily, technology makes these procedures minimally invasive and you won’t feel much discomfort.

When Should I See an Endodontist?

Not all dental pain is the same, so before you rush off to a specialist, check with your dentist to determine the best next step. If you notice the pain comes and goes with hot or cold foods and beverages, you can first switch to a toothpaste designed for tooth sensitivity to see if that helps. Dull, aching pain could be a sign of TMJ, which is especially noticeable when stressed. But any persistent shooting or sharp pains should prompt a visit to the dentist..

Similarly, any event in which your tooth or teeth are cracked, abscessed (swollen, sometimes with pus visibly oozing from the area), or dramatically injured, or knocked out entirely warrants a visit to the endodontist. For example, if you injure your jaw in a car accident and your teeth are moved, swollen, or causing pain, or the hit your child took on the ice hockey rink knocked their helmet off, you should see an endodontist.

The most crucial point to remember, though, is that tooth pain needs to be dealt with quickly to give you and your smile the best possible outcome.

Talk to a dentist about your oral health

Posted In: Oral & Dental Health Tips