Endodontics FAQs

Our FAQs explain what our dental surgeons & root canal specialists do.
If you can’t find the answer here contact us.

Endodontics

What is endodontics?

Endodontics is the branch of dentistry concerned with the form, function and disease of the human dental pulp (‘nerve’) and supporting tissues. Its study and practice encompass the basic and clinical sciences, including the biology of the normal pulp along with the causes, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries of the pulp and associated supporting structures.

What is endodontic surgery?

Although there are several surgical procedures an endodontist may offer to save a tooth, the most common procedure is an apicoectomy.

The aim of the procedure is to eliminate persistent inflammation around the root apex of the tooth.

Why have I been referred to an endodontist?

Although all dentists receive some training at dental school and carry out endodontic procedures, your dentist feels that in your case the level of difficulty requires the skills and experience that an endodontist is specifically trained to deal with, which is why you have I been referred to one of our endodontists. 

Endodontists deal with teeth with narrow or blocked canals or teeth with unusual anatomy. Endodontists often treat cases where the original treatment has been unsuccessful due to these challenges (endodontic retreatment).

If there have been traumatic injuries to the teeth and supporting structures, endodontists are often involved in their management. These injuries are very common, particularly in children, and can be complex to treat.

What is endodontic or root canal treatment?

Whenever possible, dentists try to save a natural tooth, so endodontic treatment, or a root canal, is the last option for tooth that would otherwise require extraction. The procedure involves numbing the tooth with local anaesthetic prior to placement of a dental dam, a rubber sheet which isolates the tooth from the saliva in the mouth. A hole is made in the top of the tooth (or cap if present) which then allows direct access into the pulp or nerve space. The root canals are located, cleaned and shaped using small files, then they are medicated. 

At the return visit to our endodontist, the root canals are filled, and the tooth is sealed with a foundation filling. In some situations, the root canal treatment can be completed at the first visit. You will be advised if your tooth is suitable for this single visit procedure.

The treatment is reviewed some months after the original treatment to confirm that healing is underway. The majority of root filled teeth require a crown or cap after the review to protect them from fracture and to prevent bacteria re-entering the root canal space.

Do I need a separate consultation appointment?

Should the problem require additional examination to assess or you wish to discuss the treatment in more detail before deciding you may be asked to attend for a consultation before scheduling treatment.

On occasions, should there be sufficient information provided by your dentist ahead of time to our office (letter of referral and x-ray), we may be able initiate the treatment at your consultation appointment. Explanation of the procedure will always be discussed prior to treatment. Discussion on sedation if needed will always require an initial separate consultation.

How long will it take?

Most endodontic treatments can be completed in 1-2 visits. The number of visits and length of time depends on your individual situation. At your consultation, the tooth will be examined in detail along with necessary x-rays.

The problem and recommended solutions will be explained to you. Alternate treatment options will also be presented.

Will the treatment hurt?

With the most up-to-date techniques, local anaesthetic to numb the tooth and analgesics (pain medication), root canal treatment is usually performed with minimal or no discomfort. If you are particularly anxious about the root canal procedure, talk this over with your endodontist at your consultation. Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas), or intravenous sedation can be arranged if needed.

What can I expect after the treatment?

You will be able to drive yourself home unless you have had sedation. It is normal for the tooth to be tender after treatment. Post treatment instructions will be given to you along with pain medication if required. Avoid biting or chewing on the treated tooth during these first few days. If discomfort does not improve as advised, please call our office.

How successful is root canal treatment?

Up to 90% of endodontically treated teeth are saved. Of course, getting a proper restoration following root canal treatment, along with good oral hygiene and routine visits to your dentist all influence the prognosis. Unless there are other future complications (fractures, cavities, gum disease, etc.), the tooth can last a lifetime.

As with any dental or medical procedure, there can be no assurance of success. Your endodontist will discuss your options and the chances of success before beginning treatment.

My previous root canal has failed, can this be retreated?

In most instances the tooth may be retreated. Your endodontist is specifically trained to manage complex cases requiring retreatment.

How much will the root canal treatment cost?

The cost varies with the complexity of the root canal treatment and the restoration (filling). You will be given an estimate of the cost before the treatment is initiated.

Is my treatment covered by my medical insurance?

Most NZ medical insurance policies have no coverage for dental or endodontic treatment. There may limited surgical coverage for endodontic surgery. Check with your insurance provider.

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