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Posted: March 14, 2016

Root canal: Can your general dentist handle it?


Root canal: Can your general dentist handle it?

In spite of what you’ve heard about root canals, they’re not time-consuming or painful, especially if you ask your dentist and get informed about the best treatment for your specific tooth or teeth.

Root canals are one of the best ways to save your tooth after it’s been cracked, infected, or decayed past the point of getting a crown. The earlier the pulp, the living tissue inside your root, is treated, the better your chances of saving your teeth. 

At Signature Smiles, Dr. Scott Howell, a Harvard-trained root canal specialist, has a reputation for being extremely professional and gentle. He’s an endodontist who received an extra years of advanced residency training in the diagnosis and management of diseases and disorders of the dental pulp.

When performed correctly, root canals have as much as a 97-percent success rate, said Thomas P. Connelly, D.D.S., of New York City. 

Not all dentists, though, have the extensive experience that endodontists do. Working with a dentist who specializes in anesthesiology, you can be assured that you’ll get painless and safe treatment. That care is available at Signature Smiles.

You also won’t have to see a new dentist, fill out all the medical history paperwork, and deal with financial and insurance worries.

Not all teeth are alike when root canal is needed, dentists explain. For someone with a small mouth, the surgery is a little more complicated. Back molars also have three canals to check for infection and therapy. 

Although it’s standard to use dental dams inside the mouth during root canal, only 47 percent of dentists always use them, according to a study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry. The study asked almost 1,500 general dentists about dental dams usage. Researchers found substantial differences in their attitudes.

When The Wealthy Dentist marketing website surveyed general dentists about how often they perform root canals, some were hesitant to do them in their office, especially if complications arise. Only 17 percent of dentists referred out all root canals to endodontists. In rural areas particularly, many male dentists did the procedure themselves.

Patients with small mouths and infected molars should definitely seek out an endodontist. These specialists have all the equipment and expertise needed for the best medical care.

During the procedure, the American Association of Endodontists and textbooks recommend a dental dam for preventing saliva in bacteria from reaching the tooth, which could jeopardize the chances of successful treatment. If the patient has to return due to complications, there’s a much lower success rate.

“Beliefs that dental dam use is inconvenient, time-consuming, not effective, not easy to place, or affected by patient factors were independently and significantly associated with lower use of a dental dam,” said Gregg Gilbert, DDS, professor and chair of the department of clinical and community sciences at UAB.

The cost associated with this treatment can vary depending on the severity of damage to the affected tooth and which tooth is affected, according to Dr. Robert S. Roda of Scottsdale, Arizona. 

In general, endodontic treatment is much less expensive than tooth removal and replacement with an artificial tooth, Roda said.

Don’t be intimidated by the thought of a root canal. With a variety of treatments available it’s easier to find the best treatment for your specific case. 


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