Who is an endodontist?

Endodontists are dentists with at least two additional years of advanced specialty education in diagnosis and root canal treatment. Because they limit their practices to endodontics, they treat these types of problems every day. They use their special training and experience in treating difficult cases. Endodontists may use advanced technology, such as operating microscopes, ultrasonics and digital imaging, to perform these special services. Patients requiring root canal therapy are either referred by their general dentists to the endodontist or are self referred.

What is endodontic treatment?

“Endo” is the Greek word for “inside” and “odont” is Greek for “tooth.” Endodontic treatment treats the inside of the tooth.

Inside a tooth, under the white enamel and a hard layer called the dentin, is a soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue and creates the surrounding hard tissues of the tooth during development. Once a tooth has formed, the function of the pulp is to preserve the tooth's health and vitality.  Some times the soft pulp breaks down because of bacterial infections or inflammation from a number of possible sources.

How does root canal treatment work?

In a nutshell, the process of root canal treatment first removes bacteria, nerve tissue, and bacterial toxins from within the inner section of a tooth.

Once the inner part of the tooth has been thoroughly cleaned out, the next part of treatment involves filling in and sealing up the inner part of the tooth. This part of the treatment is to minimize the chance that bacteria will be able to redevelop inside the tooth. The seal also encloses any debris that could not be fully removed during the cleaning portion of the root canal treatment process so that it can't leak out and cause inflammation again.

Why have a root canal treatment any way?

The idea behind having a root canal treatment is that it helps your body by removing bacteria and irritants that are present inside the tooth. Once root canal treatment is done it provides your body with a situation where it has a better chance for complete healing and you are able to keep your natural tooth in place.

How do you know if you need a root canal treatment?

Your regular dentist will know if you are a candidate for benefiting from root canal treatment and can refer you to see Dr. Stark.

Will you experience pain during your root canal treatment?

For the average person and the average case, root canal treatment is a nonevent and not any more uncomfortable than having a filling placed.

After Your Root Canal Therapy

There are basically two sources of pain: inflammation and infection. Some people use the terms interchangeably, but they are not the same and they are therefore treated differently. Most patients experience little pain after root canal treatment. Some low-grade pain can be expected, usually on biting on the treated tooth or sometimes just by touching it. This discomfort is inflammatory in nature and is usually controlled easily with an anti-inflammatory drug, the most effective being Ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin, Advil). One or two 200 milligram tablets, taken every six hours for a couple of days is all that most patients need. For patients unable to take Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) is good for pain relief, but has no anti-inflammatory properties. Some teeth are infected at the time of treatment and the pain arising from infection usually brings the patient initially to their dentist. Root canal treatment eliminates the source of infection, but sometimes, infection remains in the tissues surrounding the tooth. In that case, an appropriate antibiotic is prescribed and will help the patient's immune system eliminate the infection. Dr. Stark may therefore prescribe an antibiotic and maybe an anti-inflammatory drug to be taken with it. Dr. Stark and your pharmacist will have given you instructions and you should follow them closely. If you have any questions about the instructions, don't hesitate to contact Dr. Stark or your pharmacist. Most root canal treated teeth need a permanent restoration placed by your general dentist. In most cases, especially with the bigger, back teeth, a crown ("cap") is needed to strengthen the tooth. The timing of this is variable, but in most cases, the tooth should be definitively restored within one month. Your general dentist will discuss your specific restorative needs with you.

After Your Endodontic Surgery

Dr. Stark and his staff will have given you a sheet of detailed instructions dealing with what you should expect after your surgical treatment and how to take care of the surgical site. Most patients manage very well after the treatment, especially if you follow the instructions carefully. Stitches have been placed. Specific instructions about their removal will have been given to you. If you have any concerns or questions, please don't hesitate to contact Dr. Stark.

Caring For Your Traumatized Tooth

The long-term prognosis for a traumatized tooth is dependent on many variables. Rest assured that everything possible is being done to give your tooth the best chance of long-term survival. Dr. Stark, his staff and your general dentist will continue to work with you to maximize the odds for retention of the tooth. The treatment of the tooth may take considerable time and that will have been discussed with you, as the treatment plan and duration is unique to you. If you have any questions during the treatment of your tooth, don't hesitate to contact Dr. Stark or your general dentist.

What are the costs and coverage for root canal treatment?

Dr. Stark follows the fee guide developed by the College of Dental Surgeons of Saskatchewan. Dr. Stark and his staff will be pleased to outline the expected costs of treatment and help you in communication with your dental insurance carrier.

Any other questions?

Please feel free to contact Dr. Stark to have any of your questions answered. As well, the web links on this page can supply you with plenty of useful information.