An endodontic treatment, also called a root canal treatment, is a dental procedure whereby the pulp (the nerve tissue and blood vessels within the root canal) of a tooth is removed after which the cavity is filled with a special filling.
An endodontist is a dentist who has completed an additional 3-year study in endodontics, which includes research and intensive training in diagnosing and the treatment of – mainly complicated – problems and diseases in and around the teeth.
Why would you choose to go to an endodontist?
An endodontist nearly always focuses his or her work activities on dental problems of an endodontic nature. All treatments are carried out under a microscope, which offers the specialist the necessary magnification and light in order to make the small, anatomical structures in the tooth perfectly visible. The endodontist uses the latest technologies to perform the procedures and keeps up to date with the most recent developments in the work field. Your dentist has referred you to an endodontic specialist because your condition requires more expertise to ensure that the treatment has a more predictable result. There are several reasons why a patient may be referred to us, for example when a dental element has had a root canal treatment before, when the canals are not clearly visible on the X-ray (they can be clogged), the canals are curved or very long, in case of a trauma, etc.
Your first visit
Your first visit to the endodontist is usually a consultation. This includes filling in some forms, such as your medical history. We advise you to bring a list of all the medication you regularly used during the past month. The endodontist will first ask you some questions, we will make one or more X-rays, and look inside your mouth to inspect the tooth in order to make a sound diagnosis of your complaint. When this has been done, we will discuss the treatment option(s) so you will get a good idea of the benefits of certain treatments, what they include, the costs, and the risks of an endodontic treatment. When you decide to undergo the treatment, we will make a follow-up appointment.
Before we start the treatment, we will go over the planned procedure again and we will answer all the questions you may have. You will then be given a local anesthesia, which will lose its effect after about 3 to 4 hours. As long as the anesthesia has not yet worn out, you should be careful not to bite your lip or cheek and be mindful of hot food and drinks as you can burn your mouth or tongue without noticing it.
During the treatment, a so-called rubber dam will be clamped around the tooth (photo 1) in order to isolate it and to make sure nothing can fall into your mouth. After that, an opening is made (photo 2) in the chewing surface, or at the palate side when it concerns the front teeth, so we can access the inner part of the tooth: the canals. The endodontist will locate the canals by using a microscope and very small instruments after which they are cleaned and disinfected, one by one, along the correct length. When this has been done, they are filled with a biocompatible (tissue-friendly, photo 2) filling material. The final stage is filling the opening with a white filling.
We will make several photos during and immediately after the treatment in order to assess the progress and the final result. Your endodontist will tell you how the treatment went and what you can expect during the days after the treatment. Please do not hesitate to contact us (by phone or email) when you have any further questions or remarks about your treatment.
What to expect right after an endodontic treatment?
The root canal system in your tooth has been thoroughly cleaned. The irritated tissue and bacteria that caused the infection have been removed as much as possible. After the treatment, the treated area can still be sore for a few days. Your body will undergo a natural healing process. During the treatment, you had to keep your mouth open for a long time. This may cause some sensitivity in the joints of your jaw. These symptoms will wear off quickly and can be reduced by taking a pain killer you can get without prescription at any drugstore or pharmacy. Please make sure you read the package leaflet. After an endodontic treatment, it is normal that the treated dental element feels different than the rest of your teeth for some time. However, when severe pain and/or swelling lasts for more than a few days, you need to contact your dentist/endodontologist right away.
Maintenance of your tooth/molar
A root canal treatment is just one step in the recovery process to regain the full function of your tooth. A good and definitive restoration of your tooth by a capping or a dental crown is very important to guarantee the success in the long term.
When you take good care of your dental hygiene, the teeth that received adequate endodontic treatment, followed by good dental restoration, can last you just as long as your other natural teeth.
Depending on the situation, your dentist-endodontologist will check the treated tooth after six months or a year. We will make another X-ray to check whether the tooth is still in good condition.
In only a small percentages of cases, a dental element may not heal after an endodontic treatment or the pain remains. It is also possible that, after a successful treatment, a treated tooth becomes infected again after a number of years, causing the same complaints. When this happens, we can often still keep the original tooth by treating it again. When this is not the case in your situation, please contact your dentist/dentist-endodontologist to discuss the different options.
Advice for after the treatment
• We advise you not to eat until the anesthesia has worn off. This will also prevent you from biting on your cheek or tongue.
• We advise you not to use the treated tooth when you have to chew or bite hard until the element has received a restorative treatment. This means that all the cusps of a tooth have to be properly protected by a filling or a dental crown.
• Make sure that you still brush your teeth properly and floss.
• When you experience the following symptoms, please contact your dentist or endodontist right away:
- A visible swelling inside or outside your mouth;
- An allergic reaction to medication, such as a rash, hives, or itching (nausea is not an allergic reaction).