Whilst a general dentist is - well, a generalist - some dentists are specialists, offering a deeper level of expertise within a certain dental field. Endodontic specialists are fairly rare - less than 3% of dentists specialise in endodontistry, and they have to complete an additional two (or more) years of training after dental school to be called an endodontic dentist.
Their additional training is necessary, because it helps them focus on the diagnosis of tooth pain, and the details of root canal treatment and other procedures that relate to the interior of the tooth. Endodontics is the study of tooth pulp - the stuff that sits inside your tooth. Pulp is made up of blood vessels which help to build the tooth, but it can be harmed and affected by things like dental trauma, deep decay and cracks.
In many cases, a diseased tooth can be saved by an endodontic specialist. A root canal is a commonly performed dental treatment that can allow a tooth to function normally and maintain its natural look - possibly saving the tooth from extraction. Your endodontist will remove the diseased pulp before cleaning and sealing the root canal system in order to minimise tooth pain.
Your local endodontist won’t place fillings or clean your teeth - they’ve limited their practice to treatments of dental pulp, trained to find the cause of oral and facial pain that’s been difficult to diagnose, and can often be found completing around 25 root canals per week (general dentists will typically do two). Root canals have a bit of a reputation for being painful, but endodontists work hard to make sure that’s not the case. They have materials and equipment designed to make treatments as comfortable and successful as possible, and they are experts in administering numbing medications.
You might go to a endodontic specialist for extensive treatments, including:
Root canal therapy, root canal retreatment, and root end surgery
Repairing cracked teeth
Managing trauma to the teeth or mouth
Regenerative endodontic procedures
You don’t always need an endodontic specialist, so if your general dentist offers to perform a root canal for you, it’s probably because your situation is quite routine and there’s no need for a specialist. However, if your case is more complex, your general dentist might refer you to an endodontic specialist to perform the procedure.
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