The definition of endodontics is the branch of dentistry dealing with the cause, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases of the dental pulp, usually by removal of the nerve and other tissue of the pulp cavity and its replacement with suitable filling material.

It is, in more simple terms, a treatment the aim of which is to clear up teeth infection and also protect them from further infection.

If you are not familiar with the term endodontics you will have heard of the part of the tooth known as the root canal, and endodontic therapy is very much involved with those hollows within a tooth where you will find the nerve tissue, and blood vessels

If you were to have endodontic therapy it would mean removing everything that lies in the root canal, followed by a thorough cleaning of the hollow area, and then the insertion of a filling.

The pain which has been causing the patient so much anguish will have disappeared by then because the nerve tissue has been taken away and all the infection has been treated to such an extent that it is completely eliminated. In effect, the tooth is dead after endodontic therapy.

Many people are suspicious of the treatment, having heard stories of the pain it can cause but, in fact, the therapy is relatively painless – and there is the prospect of all the existing pain, caused by the infection,  being totally eradicated.

Dental Pulp

What causes the initial problem is infection of the dental pulp in the centre of the tooth, This consists of soft tissue and types of cells called ondoplasts and it produces dentin, supplies surrounding tissue with moisture and nutrients and senses extremes of temperature and pressure, which produces pain. The pulp has a whole network of nerves and blood vessels.

When this dental pulp is contaminated it dies. This can be caused by a deep cavity, a cracked tooth, or a loose filling which enables bacteria to infiltrate. When that happens the dental pulp is destroyed, the bacteria penetrates the root openings and the bone then becomes infected.

It is then that you will start to feel the pain, often very intense, as the ligaments round the tooth swell, and the tooth becomes very sensitive to extremes of temperature. There will probably be some sharper pain when chewing as well as a constant throbbing. Without treatment the tooth will eventually fall out as the infection spreads.

How does endodontic therapy work?

If you want to prevent the loss of the tooth you should talk to your dentist about endodontic therapy.

In most cases it saves your tooth and it eliminates the pain from which you have been suffering. You may feel that it is better to have the tooth removed altogether, but this can result in surrounding teeth becoming crooked, and the better option in the opinion of most experts is to go for endodontic therapy.

What exactly does that involve?

As a general rule of thumb you should anticipate three sessions with an endodontist, who, as you might logically expect, is a dentist who specialises in disease of the dental pulp within the root canal.

The diseased pulp will be removed, and the entire area will be cleaned and sealed under local anaesthetic.

Once that has been successfully achieved the dentist might add a filling or place a crown to protect the tooth, because a tooth which has had the root canal filled in is more fragile than before.

Are there other options for the treatment of dental pulp disease?

One option has already been mentioned – that of extraction. In more recent times a third option is extraction followed by an implant, but this can be very expensive.

What other treatments are carried out by Endodontists?

As well as endodontic therapy – commonly known as root canal therapy – which is one of the most common procedures, endodontics treat cracked teeth and dental trauma.

Endodontics is looked upon as a speciality by many dental organisations throughout the world. The word comes from the Green endo, meaning ‘inside’ and odons, meaning ‘tooth’.