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What is an Endodontist and what do they do?

Endodontists are dentists who specialize in maintaining teeth through endodontic therapy -- procedures, involving the soft inner tissue of the teeth, called the pulp. The word "endodontic" comes from "endo" meaning inside and "odont" meaning tooth. Like many medical terms, it's Greek. All dentists are trained in diagnosis and endodontic therapy, however, some teeth can be especially difficult to diagnose and treat. That’s why you may have been referred to an endodontic specialist.

In addition to dental school, endodontists receive two or more years of advanced education in this kind of treatment. They study root canal techniques and procedures in greater depth, for diagnosis and treatment of more difficult cases. For this reason, many dentists choose to refer their patients to endodontists.

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What happens during endodontic treatment? What is a Root Canal?

A local anesthetic will be given, so that you are numb and comfortable during the procedure. A sheet of latex called the "rubber dam" (we've got nonlatex ones too) will be placed around the tooth to isolate it, keeping it clean and dry during treatment. The treatment consists of cleaning out the space inside your root (pulp), while maintaining the structure and integrity of the tooth (dentin).

We also perform many retreatments in our office, when a previous root canal hasn’t healed or needs further cleaning.

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Will a Root Canal save my tooth forever?

Root canals (endodontic therapy) have a very high degree of success, greater than 90% for specialty-level care. If there are extenuating circumstances such as a fracture in the tooth or underlying periodontal disease, the overall prognosis may be less. We will discuss with you the chances of success before any endodontic procedure, and go over risks, benefits and alternatives to help you make an informed decision. If a previously treated tooth is unsuccessful, we can discuss your other options.

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Oral pain can often present with symptoms that make it difficult to pinpoint the cause. Because of the vast network of nerves in the mouth, the pain of a damaged or diseased tooth often is felt in another tooth and/or in the head, neck, or ear.

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Traumatic Injuries

Pulp damage is sometimes caused by a blow to the mouth, and the endodontist specializes in treating these types of traumatic injuries. For both children and adults, traumatic injuries to teeth can be scary.

As an example, an injury to a child's permanent tooth that is not fully developed can cause the root to stop growing. Procedures called apexification or regeneration may be recommended to save the tooth. Even if a tooth can't be saved forever, it may be important to keep it as long as possible while a child is growing, to help create the bone that will be necessary for a future implant.

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Will I need to return to your office for Additional Visits?

Once endodontic therapy is completed we will ask you to return for a recall visit, usually between 6 months - 2 years. This allows us to make sure the tooth has healed or is healing properly. An abscess that presents with bone loss may take a year or more to heal completely, even though the infection is gone after treatment. You will be sent a notice when we feel it is appropriate to re-evaluate the area.

If you have had treatment and feel you need a recall visit sooner, please contact our office and we will be happy to see you.

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Occasionally a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment fails to heal or pain continues despite therapy. Although rare, sometimes a tooth initially responds to root canal therapy but becomes painful or diseased months or years later. When either of these situations occur, the tooth often can be maintained with a second endodontic treatment.

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Many patients have been referred to our office because one or more of their teeth have “resorption.” This is a term that many patients have never heard before. Follow this link for a great educational video about root resorption.

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New technologies are constantly emerging into the field of Endodontics

We are proud to be recognized as one of the most technologically advanced endodontic practices in the Greater Rhode Island area.