Endodontics

Endodontics is a formal word to describe the treatment of the nerve within the tooth.  “Endo” means inside and “odont” means tooth. Also, know as a root canal therapy. An endodontist has 2 additional years of education in specializing in root canal procedures and technique.

About Your Tooth

What’s inside a tooth?

From the outside, a tooth looks like a hard, solid substance. But this cut-away illustration reveals that a tooth is really a complex system of specialized tissues.

Enamel

This shiny, hard, white tissue covering the tooth is the strongest tissue in your body. It has to be! Your jaws place as much as 128 pounds of pressure on your teeth when you chew, bite, clench, or grind.

Dentin

This tissue makes up most of the body of the tooth. Even though dentin is hard and feels solid to the touch, it’s actually microscopically porous and needs a covering of enamel or an artificial crown to protect it from decay-causing bacteria in your saliva.

Pulp

This soft tissue contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue and is commonly referred to as the “nerve” of the tooth. The pulp provides nourishment for the tooth during growth and development and is responsible for the growth of the root.

Once the tooth is mature, the pulp’s only function is sensory, providing information about hot and cold stimuli. A fully developed tooth can survive without the pulp. If this tissue is damaged, your dentist or endodontist can remove it and save your tooth in comfort and function with endodontic (root canal) treatment.

Crown

This is the part of the tooth you can see above the gumline (also the name for the artificial gold or porcelain “cap or crown” placed by your dentist following root canal treatment).

Root

This part of the tooth sits in the bone below the gum. Believe it or not, the root of your tooth is usually twice as long as the crown, the part you see above the gumline.

Bone

The roots of your teeth are anchored by bone. Healthy teeth stimulate and keep bone tissue healthy and vice versa.

Periodontal Ligament

Like the springs that hold a trampoline to its frame, this tissue supports the tooth and holds it in place in the bony socket surrounding the tooth. This tissue cushions both the tooth and the surrounding bone against the shock of chewing and biting.

The periodontal ligament, also known as the “attachment apparatus” is a fibrous tissue not unlike the ligament in your knee or elbow. The periodontal ligament contains nerve endings which provide information on the texture and hardness of items we are eating.

The periodontal ligament becomes inflamed when the tooth becomes infected or traumatized resulting in bite pain

Gum

Dentists call this the “gingiva.” It covers the bone surrounding your teeth. When you brush your teeth after meals and floss daily, you keep this tissue healthy. That’s important, because gum disease can cause bone loss.

Gum disease can also expose the tooth roots to decay. If root decay affects the pulp, you may need root canal treatment. While you can keep a tooth without a pulp for your entire life, Healthy gums are essential to retaining your teeth.

What is an Endodontist?

An endodontist is a dentist who specializes in root canal treatment. Root canal, or endodontic treatment, is a procedure performed to remove damaged tissue from inside the root canals of a tooth. As specialists, endodontists limit their practice to endodontic procedures.

Endodontists have advanced surgical and nonsurgical skills that make them uniquely qualified to treat routine as well as complex cases. The care that an endodontist provides is supported by extensive education on how to perform the very best endodontics.

After completing dental school, endodontists attend a two- or three-year advanced dental school program that focuses only on endodontic science and procedures. Endodontists also attend continuing education courses after they are in practice, so they are knowledgeable about state-of-the-art research, clinical procedures, and technology.

History

Endodontics: An Ancient Science Endodontics may have been practiced as early as the second or third century B.C. A skull found in the Negev Desert in Israel had a bronze wire in one of its teeth. Researchers believe the wire may have been used to treat an infected pulp.

Other evidence shows that pulp chambers were drained to relieve pain and pressure in the first century A.D. Over the next few centuries, early dentists increased their understanding of the role of the tooth pulp in dental health and developed numerous methods of treating it, including cauterizing and removing the pulp or covering it with protective coatings made of everything from gold foil to asbestos.

A Leap Into the Future: X-rays and Anesthetics

The greatest leap in endodontic history came with the introduction of x-rays and effective anesthetics in the first part of the 20th century. These advances made endodontic treatment more predictable and more comfortable for the patient.

Steady Progress

Interest in endodontics grew quickly as scientists began to research endodontic treatment. Their efforts and simultaneous scientific and technological advances, such as culturing and other modern methods, proved the safety and efficacy of root canal treatment, allowing hundreds of millions of patients to save teeth that otherwise would have been lost to extraction, the only alternative of the day.

Birth of a Specialty

In December 1942, because of the growing interest in endodontics, a small group of dentists, practitioners and educators sent invitations to their colleagues to form an organization in which they could share common endodontic experiences and interests. The first formal endodontic organization, The American Association of Endodontists (AAE), was founded in February 1943 at the Palmer House in Chicago. In 1963, the American Dental Association recognized endodontics as the newest of the eight dental specialties.