In the past, if you had a damaged or diseased tooth, it usually was pulled. But today, injured or diseased teeth often can be saved with endodontic therapy, also known as root canal treatment.
Endodontics is a specialized type of dentistry that deals with abnormal tooth pulp; the causes/origins, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries to the pulp; and other conditions affecting the tissues surrounding the pulp and canal (channel inside the tooth root). Tooth pulp, the soft tissue that contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissues, runs through the hard tissue inside the tooth (dentin) and extends from the crown (top) of the tooth down to the tip of the root in the jaw bone.
Endodontic procedures are used in the diagnosis and treatment of oral pain involving the pulp and periradicular area (just outside or around the root of the tooth origin). Pulp therapy, such as pulpotomy, is a common procedure in which dental pulp is removed from the pulp chamber. The nonsurgical treatment of root canals, especially in difficult cases such as teeth with blocked, narrow or unusually positioned canals, also is a major part of endodontic therapy.
Endodontic treatment may also be required for surgical removal of diseased or abnormal (pathologic) tissues, repair procedures associated with the surgical removal of pathologic tissues, repair of cracked teeth or the replacement (replantation) of teeth knocked out (avulsed) by injury.
Additional procedures include:
- Surgical removal of tooth structure, such as an apicoectomy, or root-end resection (the removal of the root tip and the surrounding infected tissue of an abscessed tooth), hemisection (the process of cutting a tooth with two roots in half) and bicuspidization (procedure to change tricuspid valve into a functioning bicuspid valve)
- Root-end filling
- Endodontic implants, which extend through the root canal into the periapical bone structure (tip or apex of the root of a tooth), whereas other types of tooth implants are anchored directly in the gums or jawbones
- Bleaching of dentin and enamel
- Retreatment of teeth previously treated endodontically
- Placement of posts and/or cores to save and strengthen teeth