Endodontic FAQ

What is endodontics?

Endodontics is a branch of dentistry recognized by the American Dental Association involving treatment of the pulp (root canal) and surrounding tissues of the tooth. When you look at your tooth in the mirror, what you see is the crown. The rest of the tooth, the portion hidden beneath the gum line, is called the root. Though the outer portion of the root is a ligament covering hard tissues called cementum and dentin, the inside channel or “root canal” contains a pulp of soft tissue, blood vessels and nerves. Bacteria that are introduced into the pulp as a result of tooth decay, periodontal disease, tooth fracture or traumatic injury, can irreversibly damage the pulp.

The symptoms vary.  All of the above conditions can cause sudden, severe toothaches and swelling; or, deterioration of the pulp may happen so gradually that it is nearly painless. Regardless of the cause and the symptoms, an endodontic specialist, such as Dr. Odum or Dr. O'Connor, is trained to remove the diseased pulp to save the tooth and prevent further infection and inflammation. After successful endodontic treatment, the natural tooth continues to perform normally.


I’m worried about x-rays. Should I be?

No worries. While x-rays will be necessary during your endodontic treatment, we use an advanced non-film computerized system, called digital radiography, that produces radiation levels significantly lower than those of already low dose conventional dental x-ray machinery. These digital images can be optimized, archived, printed and sent to other dentists via e-mail or CD-ROM. 

What about infection control?

Again, there’s no need for concern. We adhere to the most rigorous standards of infection control advocated by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Dental Association. We utilize autoclave sterilization for our instruments, barrier controls, and thoroughly sanitize each room between patients.  Our autoclave sterilizers are monitored by Emory Medical Laboratories.  To view our latest Sterilizer Monitoring Service certificate, click here.

What happens after root canal treatment?

When we finish non-surgical root canal therapy, we place a temporary seal in the crown of the tooth.  Because we limit our practices to endodontic procedures, your family dentist will provide the permanent restoration of the tooth.  It is important that you make an appointment with your general dentist promptly, because a temporary filling will eventually leak, exposing your canals to normal mouth bacteria.  There are, of course, no guarantees of success, but with proper care and prevention of decay and gum disease, your restored tooth can remain functional as long as the supporting bone and ligament remain intact.

Your tooth should be evaluated with an exam and x-ray six months after treatment to monitor the healing process.  We will give you a reminder card at the conclusion of your treatment, however, it is your responsibility to schedule this appointment.  Occasionally, a tooth that has undergone endodontic treatment fails to heal, or pain continues despite meeting every possible treatment objective.  Such a tooth may initially respond to root canal therapy, but becomes painful or diseased months or years later.  We expect a 90-95% success rate with root canal therapy, however, a small number of teeth may require non-surgical endodontic retreatment, surgical endodontic treatment, or extraction.