Root Canal, Endodontics and Endodontists

Endodontists diagnose and relieve oral and facial pain. Endodontists complete dental school and then train for two more years to become specialists in endodontic treatments, also known as root canal therapy. Endodontists focus on tooth pulp and specialize in performing root canal procedures. Endodontists often treat difficult cases involving teeth with unusual or complex root structure or small, narrow canals.

The tooth consists of two main parts:

  • Crown - the visible part of the tooth above the gum.
  • Root - the part of the tooth lying beneath the gum surrounded by bone
  • Endodontists refer to various portions of the pulp as:
  • Pulp chamber – the hollow space at the center of the tooth.
  • The root canals – channels where nerves run from the center of the root to the tooth’s pulp chamber.

Inside each root is a channel, or root canal, that runs the length of the tooth. This root canal system is complex. Some teeth can contain many root canals. Upper and lower incisors may contain two canals; Upper and lower premolars may contain three main canals. Molars, especially lower molars, may contain five root canals. The root canal contains the pulp of the tooth and consists of nerves, blood vessels and soft tissue. When the tissue surrounding the tooth root is diseased or damaged, a root canal is required

Since surrounding tissue nourishes the tooth, pulp in a mature tooth is not that important. Once a tooth is fully developed, the pulp provides only the ability to feel hot and cold.

Pulp can become inflamed or infected by bacteria associated with decay, very deep restorations, fractures, trauma or periodontal disease. Injured pulp should be removed from the root canal because it can become infected or irritate surrounding tissue. Once this occurs, root canal treatment, or endodontic therapy, is necessary.

Root canal treatment removes damaged pulp by cleaning the tooth’s root canals and filling the root canals to help preserve the tooth. In some cases a root canal treatment is not enough and root canal surgery may be necessary.

Root canal therapy removes the pulp from the root canal, but the root will continue to function normally because of supporting tissues.