Wanna be an Endodontist :)

Many people routinely seek out a dentist for emergency tooth repair services. Most of the time the damage can be fixed by filling the cracked enamel or recreating the missing portions of a healthy tooth. Other times, however, the damage goes past the outer portion of the tooth, also called the enamel, and inside the tooth to the tooth pulp. When the inside of the tooth is infected or inflamed it may require the often dreaded root canal procedure, otherwise known as endodontic treatment. Endodontic treatment can be performed by a general dentist or may require the expertise of an endodontist—a dentist who specializes in matters concerning the inside of the tooth, namely the tooth pulp which is comprised of nerve tissue and blood vessels.

Like a general dentist, an endodontist must complete dental school which is generally four years long. In addition to dental school, an endodontist must also complete an additional two to three years of advanced training, also called residency. Board certification is also available in this field and is provided by the American Board of Endodontists.

Because basic training in endodontic procedures is provided in dental school, general dentists may, and often do, perform endodontic procedures. More complicated endodontic treatment however usually requires the additional expertise of an endodontist.

A general dentist will generally examine a patient’s damaged tooth to determine if the pulp might be infected or inflamed. Depending on the complexity of the issues involved and the general practices of a general dentist, the patient may be referred to an endodontist to receive endodontic treatment. Molars, for example, are typically more difficult to treat than the front teeth. In the case of a root canal procedure, the endodontist, or general dentist, will remove the inflamed or infected pulp tissue inside the tooth, shaping and cleaning the channel inside the root of the tooth. Some endodontists may also perform other services besides root canals such as the implantation of artificial teeth following extraction but they typically focus on root canals.

Many tooth pulp infections may not be accompanied by obvious pain, so a dentist may have to look for other symptoms and consult an endodontist for further treatment. An endodontist with hospital privileges might be called in to examine patients with dental and facial trauma. Opportunistic infections or inflammations of exposed tooth pulp may need immediate treatment before reconstructive work can begin.

There is financial as well as professional incentive for dentists to pursue an endodontic endorsement. Being an endodontist extends the scope of services that the dentist can provide. This can be a patient satisfier as patients will not have to endure a trip across town for an emergency procedure performed by an unknown endodontist, but it can be a revenue enhancer as well since root canals cost considerably more than general dental services such as filling cavities. Moreover, because endodontists have additional training and can perform more complicated endodontic services, their services may be charged at a higher rate than a general dentist’s.

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