Endodontic FAQ

What is an Endodontist?

An Endodontist is a dentist that has received 2-3 additional years of training in order to specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and injuries of the pulp and periapical tissues of the teeth, typically known as Root Canal Therapy (RCT). Because Endodontists specialize in endodontics, they treat these types of problems every day. They use their special training and experience in treating difficult cases, such as teeth with narrow or blocked canals, or unusual anatomy. Endodontists may use advanced technology, such as operating microscopes, ultrasonics and digital imaging to perform these special services.

What is endodontics?

Endodontics is a branch of dentistry recognized by the American Dental Association involving treatment of the pulp (root canal) and surrounding tissues of the tooth. When you look at your tooth in the mirror, what you see is the crown. The rest of the tooth, the portion hidden beneath the gum line, is called the root. Though the outer portion of the root is a hard tissue called dentin, the inside channel or “root canal” contains a pulp of soft tissue, blood vessels and nerves. Bacteria that are introduced into the pulp as a result of tooth decay, periodontal disease, tooth fracture or other problems, can severely damage the pulp. When that happens, an endodontic specialist removes the diseased pulp to save the tooth and prevent further infection and inflammation. After successful endodontic treatment, the tooth continues to perform normally.

What caused my tooth to become sick or infected?

At some point, trauma, deep decay, a crack, or just wear and tear, caused the pulp in your tooth to become irritated, inflamed, or infected.

Why do I need Root Canal Therapy (RCT)?

Root Canal Therapy is a way to save your tooth and avoid extraction when the pulp inside your tooth is sick and diseased beyond the possibility of recovery. If diseased tooth is not removed, and the canals are not filled and sealed, infection will ultimately grow. Occasionally, a tooth that is broken will require RCT in order to place a post and crown.

Why do I need Root Canal Therapy when my tooth doesn’t hurt?

It is possible for a tooth to be abscessed and be asymptomatic for a period of time; however, the abscess will eventually manifest itself with pain and/or swelling.

Is the procedure going to hurt?

We will be as gentle as possible. Dr. Sykes will administer anesthetic before beginning treatment so that you will not have any nerve sensation in your tooth during the procedure. 

How long will my procedure take?

The procedure itself will probably take between 30 and 90 minutes, with the average being about 1 hour; however, you should allow for up to 2 hours as your appointment time will include registration, and clinical and radiographic (x-ray) evaluation.

I’m worried about x-rays. Should I be?

No. While x-rays will be necessary during your endodontics treatment, we use an advanced non-film computerized system, called digital radiography, that produces radiation levels up to 90 percent lower than those of already low dose conventional dental x-ray machinery. These digital images can be optimized, archived, printed and sent to cotherapists via e-mail or CD-ROM. For more information contact Carestream Health, Inc.

Will you give me gas (nitrous oxide)? Will I be put to sleep?

We do not use nitrous oxide in our office as we are able to completely anesthetize the tooth by administering the anesthetic locally.

What about infection?

Again, there’s no need for concern. We adhere to the most rigorous standards of infection control advocated by OSHA, the Centers for Disease Control and the American Dental Association. We utilize autoclave sterilization and barrier techniques to eliminate any risk of infection.

Will this hurt later?

There is typically minimal discomfort after Root Canal Therapy. Inflammation associated with Root Canal Therapy can sometimes cause soreness for a day or two following treatment. An anti-inflammatory medication, (i.e. ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin or Aleve) typically resolves any post treatment symptoms. If you are having symptoms following your procedure, and your health history allows, we recommend taking ibuprofen. Occasionally, other factors, such as infection, can result in greater pain after Root Canal Therapy. If your discomfort should not improve after trying ibuprofen, please call our office.

Will I need a narcotic after treatment?

You should not need narcotic medication following treatment. Most soreness that follows RCT would be the result of inflammation and would be best addressed with ibuprofen.

Why is ibuprofen better than other medications?

Most discomfort associated with endodontic treatment is due to inflammation. We recommend ibuprofen because, unlike most narcotics and acetaminophen, it is very good at reducing inflammation, in addition to acting as an analgesic.

What happens after treatment?

When your root canal therapy has been completed, a record of your treatment will be sent to your restorative dentist. You should contact his office for a follow-up restoration within a few weeks of completion at our office. Your restorative dentist will decide on what type of restoration is necessary to protect your tooth. It is rare for endodontic patients to experience complications after routine endodontic treatment or microsurgery. If a problem does occur, however, we are available at all times to respond.

Is it okay for me to work-out after my treatment?

It is typically best not to exercise or do any other strenuous activity on the day of your appointment, as this will greatly increase blood flow to the area and may increase soreness.

May I return to work after my root canal therapy appointment?

While we do ask that you refrain from any strenuous activity on the day of your appointment, it is typically fine to return to normal activity the same day.

Will I need to go back to my dentist?

It is recommended that a molar or bicuspid tooth be restored with a crown following root canal therapy, as they are them more vulnerable to cracking. If treated tooth already has a crown, a permanent filling will be placed in the crown either by Dr. Sykes or your restorative dentist.

Is the procedure guaranteed to be successful?

While there are no guarantees when treating the human body, Root Canal Therapy performed by an endodontic specialist, such as Dr. Sykes, typically has an extremely high success rate. If your tooth is not a good candidate for endodontic treatment or the chance of success is unfavorable, you will be informed prior to treatment or when a complication becomes evident during or after treatment, and your options for alternative treatment will be reviewed.

Why does my old root canal treatment need to be re-treated?

Although Root Canal Therapy is typically a very successful procedure, various factors can cause it to fail, but often times we don’t know why. Cracked teeth, hidden and untreated auxiliary canals, and residual tissue at the tip of a canal are some of the reasons Root Canal Therapy may have failed.

Was my previous Root Canal Therapy done incorrectly?

We can’t be certain if the previous procedure was done incorrectly, but knowing that treatment has failed, we can re-treat the tooth using modern technology and often get successful results.

What is an Apicoectomy?

Apicoectomy is the surgical removal of the infected tip of a root that has already had Root Canal Therapy without the desired results, providing for placement of a “reverse” filling of the root canal space.

Why do I need an Apicoectomy?

The area that is causing a problem is at the root tip and cannot be predictably accessed from inside the tooth, therefore, it is necessary to go through the gum tissue and directly remove the infected root tip.

How did my tooth get cracked?

Most likely your tooth cracked from chewing hard foods and/or clenching your teeth. In some cases, trauma causes a tooth to crack.

How much will it cost?

There are several variables used when determining fees, such as, which tooth is involved, how many canals are involved, whether or not root canal treatment has been performed previously, etc. Please consult with our Scheduling Coordinators to determine what fees may apply to your case.

How do I use my dental insurance in your office?

For consultation/evaluation appointments, we will file your insurance for your reimbursement and all fees are due at the time of the appointment.

For treatment appointments, we will either file your insurance for your reimbursement and all fees are due at time of the appointment, or we will file your insurance and collect your estimated-co-pay at the appointment.

If you have any other questions regarding insurance, please contact us.