In the world of dentistry, there are quite a few different types of specialists who specialize in different areas of dental work. There are specialists for false teeth, surgery, children’s dentistry, gum disease, etc. Then there are Endodontists who specialize in the roots and surrounding materials within the tooth.
An Endodontist is a specialist who deals with the roots and pulp of a tooth. There are two different words associated with the roots of teeth, and those are endodontists and endodontics. Endodontics is the field of study dealing with the roots of teeth, whereas an Endodontist is the name of a specialist who works on the roots of teeth. The word Endodontic comes from two Greek terms: the first being “endo” which means “inside” and then “odons” which means “teeth.” In the literal sense, the term endodontics refers to the things which are inside the tooth.
The most common work which is associated with endodontists is “Endodontic Therapy”, more commonly known as a “Root Canal.” This procedure is necessary when a cavity has gone deep enough into the tooth to affect the roots themselves. Once the roots are compromised, the only real way to alleviate the problem is to remove all of the roots material, or to remove the tooth altogether. If a patient prefers to save the tooth, a “root canal” is the answer. In the case of this procedure, the endodontist drills a hole through the tooth, and then uses exact procedures to clean out all of the roots material inside the tooth. After a completed procedure, the outer shell of the tooth will still be intact, but the inside of the tooth is completely empty. A dentist then fills the tooth with a permanant sealer, often refered to as a “core”. Sometimes a crown is suggested after a root canal to help strengthen and secure the tooth.
Regular dentists are trained in how to do this work, and most are perfectly capable of doing so. However, since a root canal can become very particular, it is up to the discretion of the individual dentist as to whether he will perform a root canal at his office or refer the patient out to a roots specialist. Also, not all root canals are equal. Larger teeth (towards the back of the mouth), like molars, have more roots than the smaller teeth up front. The more roots a tooth has, the more difficult and expensive a root canal gets. Also, certain teeth in the top of the mouth are precariously close to the sinus cavities, which can make the procedure much more difficult. The more difficult the root canal, the more chance there is that a general dentist will send the patient to an endodontist to have the procedure done.
So if I need a root canal, should I go to a regular dentist or an Endodontist? Generally, work performed by a general dentist is going to be less expensive than work done by a specialist. For this reason, most people choose to go to a their regular dentist first in order to get their x-rays and examination done. If their dentist is then able to perform the root canal, that is usually the best option financially. If the general dentist cannot do the procedure, that dental office will have recommendations of which specialists can do the work with greater ease.