What does an Endodontist do?
Endodontist – a word that you may find as hard to understand as you do to pronounce. Well, let us spell it out for you. “Endo” means “inside”, and “Odont” means “tooth”. Still, you may be left wondering – what exactly is it that an Endodontist does?
An Endodontist is a specialist Dentist. They know that there is more to your mouth than just the exterior of your shiny white teeth and have spent years studying what lies inside those teeth – that includes the structure, function and diseases of your teeth.
Their main focus is on your dental pulp, root and root tissues, and this gives them the knowledge and skill set to perform the complicated root canal treatments.
However, most general Dentists’ can also perform the same treatments as an Endodontist, so how do you know when you need to see a specialist?
In this article, we’ll look at the difference between a Dentist and an Endodontist, including their knowledge of the mouth and the treatments they can provide, the cost of those treatments, how to know when you need to visit an Endodontist, and how you go about finding one near you.
When do you need to see an Endodontist?
If you have any seemingly ordinary issues with your mouth, your general Dentist is the first person that you should visit – this includes for your regular check-ups or any general dental treatments that you may require.
Your problem may be solved with something as simple as a filling, or, if your issue is not difficult, your general Dentist may be able to perform your root canal treatment at a far lower cost than an Endodontist.
However, your general Dentist may refer you to see an Endodontist if they are experiencing any difficulties with your root canal treatment and cannot perform the procedure themselves – for example, if your issue is arising from a problem with a prior root canal, the treatment may be too complicated for your general Dentist to redo.
An Endodontist may also be able to give you advice on whether you can save or have to resort to extracting a tooth if you have any serious dental injuries that your Dentist cannot fix – for example, a tooth that has been knocked out, a tooth that has been fractured all the way to its nerve, or if you are in extreme pain from inflamed pulp.
In any of these cases, you should visit an Endodontist immediately. No referral is required to visit an Endodontist, and you may find these specialist Dentists’ have the ability to fix and save teeth that may have otherwise been lost from the extent of the injury or decay.
What is the Difference between a Dentist and an Endodontist?
The main difference between a general Dentist and an Endodontist is the amount of study that they have done. A general Dentist is able to perform the majority of the same treatments as your Endodontist.
However, a general Dentist may not have necessarily performed the extra-curricular course of study required for them to become registered as an Endodontist. An Endodontists’ postgraduate study will revolve around your tooths’ canals – that is, their very small, cave-like holes.
Each canal has sensitive tissue – known as the pulp – nerves, and your blood vessels, and an Endodontist will perform university-based studies on this topic for three years after qualifying as a general Dentist.
Your Endodontist is qualified as a specialist in their chosen area of Dentistry only.
Once they have lodged themselves as a specialist, the regulations set by the Dental Board of Australia, with whom they must be registered with to be qualified as a specialist, will no longer allow them to perform general Dentistry.
Thus, they are limited in what treatments they are able to perform as a Dentist.
However, due to their increased knowledge from their additional studies in their area of Dentistry, their charges are more costly than those of your general Dentist as they are seen to be more skilled – they can charge anywhere from double to up to 100% in price for treatments.
You may also find that your Endodontist has more advanced technological equipment for performing their procedures than your general Dentist. This includes their microscopes and digital imaging equipment.
This can assist in making your treatment far more comfortable and efficient.
List of Procedures an Endodontist Performs
The most common procedure an Endodontist will perform is a root canal treatment.
A root canal is a treatment that will restore and save a tooth that has become severely damaged or infected, rather than resorting to extracting it.
Usually, an extent of damage this bad has come from a cracked tooth, a deep cavity, or a serious injury to the tooth (such as a blow to your face). During a root canal procedure, the pulp (the damaged area of your tooth) is removed, cleaned, and disinfected.
It is then shaped and filled, which seals off the root canal, and helps prevent any future diseases. If proper care is taken of the tooth with a good dental care regime, your repaired tooth should last you the remainder of your life. You should not feel any discomfort during the treatment as a local anaesthetic is all that is required to numb the pain.
However, you may find yourself visiting an Endodontist for a variety of other treatments. These include;
4 Reasons for Visiting an Endodontist
- Referrals from a general Dentist – If your general Dentist finds a procedure too difficult to perform, they may refer you to see an Endodontist to perform the treatment instead.
- Endodontic re-treatments – When you have had a previous root canal treatment that has failed and needs to be redone.
- Endodontic surgeries – For example, apicoectomies, when the infected tissue at the tip of your tooth’s root must be removed.
- Treatment of pulp damage – In cases of severe dental injury or decay, your Endodontist may be able to repair and save a tooth rather than removing it.
What is the training Required to be an Endodontists?
Just like your Doctor can decide to become a specialist in their chosen field of study, your Dentist can choose to seek further training in a particular area to qualify as a specialist.
If they chose to become an Endodontist, after they complete their four-year dentistry degree, a minimum of two years working as a general Dentist is required.
This helps gain an understanding of the requirements of a general Dentist and ensures for good hand-eye coordination, the ability to do precise and detailed work, good communication skills with a sympathetic and caring listening ear, and the ability to concentrate for extended periods of time.
Post-graduate studies are then three years of full time formal, university-based tuitions on the specialisations of diagnosing and treating diseases and injuries to the soft tissues and hollows within the cores of teeth – or, in simpler terms, Endodontics.
Once all studies have been completed, one must register with the Dental Board of Australia to become a fully qualified Endodontist.
As mentioned previously, this now means they are no longer able to perform any general Dental work.
How to Find an Endodontist Near you
Your general Dentist will have a list of specialists whose work they have seen, and therefore they know and trust.
A good way to get find an Endodontist that you know will take care of you as a patient is to ask your general Dentist for advice, or a referral.
However, if this is not possible, as a referral is not required to see an Endodontist, try visiting the website www.healthengine.com.au – simply search for an Endodontist in your area and book an appointment online, or by ringing the clinic with the information you will find provided on the website.
This is a good way to see how much experience in performing procedures this Endodontist has, as well as asking any other questions you may have, including costs, office equipment, staff manner, and more.
An Endodontist is not the only Dentist qualified to perform your pulp treatments such as root canals.
However, as they have completed three years post-graduate studies of full time formal, university-based tuitions revolving around diagnosing and treating diseases and injuries to the soft tissues and hollows within the cores of teeth, they are seen to have a higher knowledge a greater skillset in this area than your general Dentist.
A general Dentist is still the first person you should visit if you have any uncomplicated issues with your mouth – including for your regular check-ups or any other general dental treatments that you may require.
Your problem may be solved with something as simple as a filling, or, if your issue is not difficult, your general Dentist has the ability and the experience to perform your root canal treatment for a far lower cost than an Endodontist.
Rest assured that, if your treatment is too complicated for your Dentist to perform, they will refer you to see an Endodontist that they know and trust, so you can have your work completed both safely and efficiently.
By Dr Veronica Roller
Created at June 06, 2019, Updated at March 06, 2020