What to Expect at your Appointment.
Our expert team will coordinate your Endodontic treatment with your general dentist to ensure that your visit at our office is easy and seamless. Below you’ll find answers to some commonly asked questions, but feel free to contact our office if you have any questions or special needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp, the soft tissue inside the root canal, becomes inflamed or infected. The inflammation or infection can have a variety of causes: deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, or a crack or chip in the tooth. In addition, an injury to a tooth may cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.
Root canal (endodontic) treatment is a highly successful method of saving a tooth that would otherwise need extraction. Millions of teeth receive root canal treatment every year. A tooth with a well-done root canal treatment can last a lifetime. It can usually be completed in one or two appointments and with modern anesthetic techniques there is rarely any pain during the procedure (contrary to popular belief!). There are effective methods for replacing a missing tooth, but generally nothing is as good as saving the natural tooth if possible. If a tooth is extracted it is often necessary to replace it with a bridge or implant which is usually more costly and time-consuming than root canal treatment.
Endodontists are dentists with at least two additional years of advanced specialty education in diagnosis and root canal treatment.
Endodontists use their special training and experience in treating difficult cases, such as teeth with narrow or blocked canals, or unusual anatomy. Because they limit their practices to endodontics, they treat these types of problems every day.
Endodontists use advanced technology, such as operating microscopes, ultrasonics, and digital imaging to perform these special services.
“Endo” is the Greek word for “inside” and “odont” is Greek for “tooth.” Endodontic treatment treats the inside of the tooth.
To understand endodontic treatment, it helps to know something about the anatomy of the tooth. Inside the 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.
The pulp extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the roots where it connects to the tissues surrounding the root. The pulp is important during a tooth’s growth and development. However, once a tooth is fully mature it can survive without the pulp, because the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it.
Signs to look for include pain, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, tenderness to touch and chewing, discoloration of the tooth, and swelling, drainage or tenderness in the nearby bone and gingival tissues. Sometimes, however, there are no symptoms.
Dr. Massey removes the inflamed or infected pulp, carefully cleans and shapes the inside of the canal, a channel inside the root, then fills and seals the space. Afterwards, you will return to your dentist, who will place a crown or other restoration on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function. After restoration, the tooth continues to function like any other tooth.
Many endodontic procedures are performed to relieve the pain of toothaches caused by pulp inflammation or infection. With modern techniques and anesthetics, most patients report that they are comfortable during the procedure.
For the first few days after treatment, your tooth may feel sensitive, especially if there was pain or infection before the procedure. This discomfort can be relieved with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Follow your endodontist’s instructions carefully.
Your tooth may continue to feel slightly different from your other teeth for some time after your endodontic treatment is completed. However, if you have severe pain or pressure or pain that lasts more than a few days, call your dentist or our office at (417) 883–7668.
The cost varies depending on how complex the problem is and which tooth is affected. Molars are more difficult to treat, the fee is usually more. Most dental insurance policies provide some coverage for endodontic treatment.
Generally, endodontic treatment and restoration of the natural tooth are less expensive than the alternative of having the tooth extracted. An extracted tooth must be replaced with a bridge or implant to restore chewing function and prevent adjacent teeth from shifting. These procedures tend to cost more than endodontic treatment and appropriate restoration. With root canal treatment you save your natural teeth and money.
You should not chew or bite on the treated tooth until you have had it restored by your dentist. The un-restored tooth is susceptible to fracture, so you should see your dentist for a full restoration as soon as possible. Otherwise, you need only practice good oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing, and regular checkups and cleanings.
Most endodontically treated teeth last as long as other natural teeth. In a few cases, a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment does not heal or the pain continues. Occasionally, the tooth may become painful or diseased months or even years after successful treatment. Often when this occurs, redoing the endodontic procedure can save the tooth.
Steps of a Root Canal
Dr. Massey examines and x-rays the tooth, then administers local anesthetic. After the tooth is numb, he places a small protective sheet called a “dental dam” over the area to isolate the tooth and keep it clean and free of saliva during the procedure.
Dr. Massey makes an opening in the crown of the tooth. Very small instruments are used to clean the pulp from the pulp chamber and root canals and to shape the space for filling.
After the space is cleaned and shaped, Dr. Massey fills the root canals with a biocompatible material, usually a rubber-like material called “gutta-percha.” The gutta-percha is placed with an adhesive cement to ensure complete sealing of the root canals. In most cases, a temporary filling is placed to close the opening. The temporary filling will be removed by your dentist before the tooth is restored.
If the tooth lacks sufficient structure to hold the restoration in place, your dentist or Dr. Massey may place a post inside the tooth. Be sure to ask your dentist or Dr. Massey for details about the specific restoration planned for your tooth.
After the final visit with Dr. Massey, you must return to your dentist to have a crown or other restoration placed on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function.