Root Canal: Should You Choose a General Dentist or Endodontist?

The vast majority of root canals 75 percent  in the United States and worldwide are performed by general dentists. The four main steps in root canal therapy are diagnosis, access, cleaning & shaping, and filling. An endodontist, root canal specialist, is an individual who has spent at least 2 or more years in post doctorate training after dental school.  They are capable of doing these steps as proficiently as possible, keeping the treatment comfortable (painless), and being able to manage unforeseen problems that may arise either during or after treatment. There is nothing routine about doing a root canal. Every tooth is unique just as every person is unique. Complexity is an important factor affecting the performance of successful root canal treatment.

One thing is certain ~ “You pay for what you get!”  Competent dentistry costs money, whether performed by a general dentist or an endodontic specialist. Like everything else of consequence in life things of value, like dental services, are expensive but worthwhile. It is very different from trying to get the best deal on a dress, shoes, or a car ~ It’s your BODY!

Here are some things to consider and/or ask BEFORE your root canal treatment:


1. Allow anyone to do a root canal that can’t get you very numb!  Today there is no reason for a root canal to hurt while you are being treated. Continued treatment by anyone not willing to make the procedure painless and get you numb must be addressed immediately. You are the patient; you CAN stop the procedure by informing the dentist that you are feeling something unpleasant.

2. Allow a root canal to be performed without the use of a rubber dam. This is the universal standard of care for root canal therapy.  A rubber dam isolates the tooth and protects you, the patient, during the procedure. There have been documented cases of patients aspirating a contaminated file which turned into a medical emergency. In addition, it keeps the bad bacteria from going back inside the tooth!

3. Allow a root canal to be performed by someone who suggests a long waiting period (2 -6 months or longer) before the tooth receives the permanent crown or some type of protective restoration. Root canal treated teeth should be permanently restored as soon the initial tenderness of the procedure is healed.  Usually about 2 – 4 weeks at the most upon completion.  Longer waiting periods increase the chances of the tooth fracturing off, chipping, loosing a filling, and contamination of the root canal space. A tooth worth the investment for a root canal must have the permanent crown or restoration placed as soon as possible to ultimately protect the tooth in the future.

4. Allow anyone to do a root canal who hesitates when requesting a second opinion or specialist treatment.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Great dentist want their patients to have the BEST treatment experience.  Therefore, they refer to specialists for complicated cases such as root canal therapy. After all, this is your BODY and you deserve the best and have the right to know your options. The tooth proposed for extraction with the old root canal may be saved, by an endodontist who treats this type of case on a regular basis.

-dr. rico short

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