Information Concerning Your Endodontic Therapy

This information is designed to more fully familiarize you with the treatment procedures and policies of our three Endodontic offices. It will help you understand our services.

Your family dentist has referred you to us because he or she believes you have the best chance to be successfully, efficiently and painlessly treated by a specialist who has at least two additional years of training in endodontics and is highly skilled with all root canal procedures.

Root canal therapy is a specialized dental procedure designed to retain a tooth safely and comfortably. There is no doubt that a functioning, endodontically treated and well restored tooth is vastly superior to the best replacement. It is generally less expensive to retain the tooth rather than have an extraction coupled with the placement of a bridge or implant. Endodontic therapy usually results in fewer complications and less post-procedure pain than tooth extraction. If a tooth is extracted and not replaced, there is the disadvantage of reduced chewing ability, loss of cosmetic appearance and jeopardy to the health of other teeth due to the increased load they must support. Left untreated, the damaged nerve or pulp becomes a breeding ground for bacteria ultimately leading to painful abscess formation and jaw infections.

Root canal therapy is necessary when the pulp tissue inside the tooth becomes diseased. The most common causes of pulpal disease are decay and trauma (such as an accidental blow to a tooth). The discovery of the pulpal damage may not always be possible when the trauma occurs or when the decay is found. Often we see teeth that become painful and need root canal treatment months or even years after the decay has been removed and the tooth filled. When the infected pulp tissue is removed and the root canals cleaned and sealed by the endodontic procedures, healing can take place.

Alternatives to root canal therapy are very few and are not usually desirable. One alternative is extraction of the involved tooth and the disadvantages of this were discussed above. Another alternative could be to do nothing, but this leaves the pain and potential infection untreated to possibly worsen. This is not recommended.

Root canal therapy has had the reputation of being a painful procedure, but today, this is not the case. You may have been in considerable pain before the treatment began, but with today's excellent anesthetics and techniques, the procedure itself is free of discomfort and is specifically designed to return the tooth to comfort and function as quickly as possible.

The treatment is usually completed in one to three visits depending on the individual situation and complexity involved. When the treatment is complete, a written report with x-rays will be sent to your dentist. Your family dentist will provide the permanent restoration for your tooth. This can be a crown which we sometimes recommend to protect your tooth and to guard against breakage. This should be done as soon as possible after completion of our treatment. Once the tooth is properly treated and restored it can be retained as long as any other tooth. It is not a "dead" tooth as long as the root is embedded in healthy surrounding tissues that give it a blood and nerve supply.

Finally, it must be realized that root canal therapy is not always successful. Success of endodontric treatment depends on the health of the patient and the ability of the body to heal the damage. This healing cannot always be predicted. In a small percentage of cases, surgery is necessary to help the body finally eliminate infection.

In order to help answer the question, "How successful is endodontic therapy?" a study found in the December 2004 Journal of Endodontics states 97% of 1,126,788 patients who had 1,462,986 teeth endodontically treated retained their teeth for over 8 years.

We hope this information is of value to you. If you have any other questions regarding your treatment, please ask. We enjoy our patients and believe in a mutual understanding. We have found that the entire endodontic experience is much more pleasant for patients who have a better understanding of it.