As we continue our series on dental specialties, this week our focus in on the field of endodontics. According to the ADA, endodontics is the branch of dentistry that is dedicated to the study and treatment of "morphology, physiology and pathology of the human dental pulp and periradicular tissues."
To understand just what that means, let's look a little bit at the anatomy of a tooth. The tooth is separated into four basic layers:
- The outermost layer is the enamel. Enamel is the hardest substance in the body and works to protect the softer inner layers of the teeth from the daily biting, grinding and wear and tear our teeth are exposed to. It also works as an insulator to shield the teeth from severe temperatures and chemicals that could be painful.
- The Dentin is the middle layer, makes up the bulk of our tooth body and is responsible for giving teeth their color. It is a bony substance that isn't as hard or brittle as enamel. Its more elastic properties help it support the enamel above it and protect the pulp below. The microscopic tubules that compose the dentin help transmit stimuli and nutrients through the tooth.
- The third type of hard tissue that covers the root of the tooth is cementum. Cementum surrounds the pulp chamber in a thin layer and is responsible to help anchor the tooth into the bone.
- The innermost layer of the tooth is the pulp. Pulp is composed of nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue, lymph vessels and cells called odontoblasts that create dentin. It's divided into two areas within the tooth. The pulp cavity is located in the crown of the tooth (the part you see) and the pulp canals run through the roots of the teeth.
Periradicular just means "around the tooth." So, endodontists treat disease and decay that reaches into the innermost layers of the tooth and the tissues that surround it. The most common procedure that takes place in an endodontist office is a root canal. In fact, the average endodontist completes about twenty five root canal procedures per week compared to a general dentist's two.
Their experience, two years of post-doctoral training, and state of the art technology allow endodontist to treat patients efficiently and comfortably when it comes to one of the most infamous dental procedures.
In addition to root canals, other treatments that take place in an endodontic practice include:
- Endodontic retreatment: appropriate when a previous tooth treatment has failed or the tooth has developed new problems.
- Traumatic dental injury: if a tooth has been broken, dislodged, or knocked out- an endodontist often has the advanced technology and skills to save an injured tooth. If you have a tooth injury, it's important to have it examined immediately.
- Endodontic surgery: some types might include a procedure to remove damaged or infected tissues, or surgery to eliminate calcium deposits from the root canals.
Most endondists offer significant flexibility in accommodating emergency cases. Quicker scheduling means your dental issues can be addressed faster and you can be out of pain sooner. For dental problems extending to the roots and pulp of your teeth, an endodontist may be the best resource for a successful outcome. If you need a root canal, are experiencing troubles with a previously treated tooth or suffer a dental injury - contact an endodontic office near you.