Advancing technologies leads to specialization and super specialization. One such specialization of Dentistry if the field of Endodontics.
Originating from the Latin word “ENDO,” which means inside, and “ODONT,” which means the tooth, the science of Endodontics is the study of the problems inside the tooth, and an Endodontist is a specialist who treats the inside of the tooth. The outermost layer of a tooth is the Enamel which covers the Dentine. In the tooth’s core is the pulp, which has blood vessels supplying nutrients to the tooth and a nerve that provides the sensations. These enter the tooth from the apex of the root and curve up to the pulp chamber, which is literally in the center of the crown.
This pulp chamber which is usually sealed off from the outside world, may sometimes get infected by microorganisms. More often than not, these microorganisms enter the pulp chamber due to dental decay on the tooth surface. The dental decay, or more technically speaking, caries, dissolves the enamel and dentine and reaches the pulp chamber over time. Once it gets to the pulp chamber, the bacteria quickly eat away and degenerate the blood supply and nerve tissue of the pulp and the canal till the root apex.
These bacteria then make the house in this empty space where the body’s defense mechanism cannot reach and keep on proliferating. Such situations generally tend to be quite painful to the patient due to the toxins created by the bacteria. The toxins not only have a chemical action but also exert pressure and cause pain. The only way to treat such situations is to clean out this pulp chamber and the root canal and then fill it with an inert material. It would have been great if somehow the blood vessels and nerve tissue could be restored. Alas, dental science, as of today, has no known technology to make this happen.
Anterior teeth, i.e., teeth in the front of the mouth, usually have only a single canal which is relatively straight and hence is easy to treat. Most general dentists would treat such teeth. When the problem occurs in the back teeth, especially the molars, problems crop up. Molars have multiple root canals, which are pretty thin and invariably curved with complicated access. In such situations, the services of an Endodontistis are usually called for. An Endodontist is an expert in negotiating such canals and filling them with inert materials, usually gutta percha or cement.
Depending upon the strategy employed and the school of thought followed by the Endodontist, such treatment can be completed in either a single sitting or two or three sittings. This therapy is generally known as Root Canal Treatment or RCT in short.