What is Endodontics?

Endodontic therapy is a sequence of treatment for the pulp of a tooth which results in the elimination of infection and protection of the decontaminated tooth from future microbial invasion. This set of procedures is commonly referred to as a “root canal.” Root canals and their associated pulp chamber are the physical hollows within a tooth that are naturally inhabited by nerve tissue, blood vessels and other cellular entities. Endodontic therapy involves the removal of these structures, the subsequent cleaning, shaping, and decontamination of the hollows with tiny files and irrigating solutions, and the obturation (filling) of the decontaminated canals with an inert filling such as gutta percha and typically a eugenol-based cement. After endodontic surgery the tooth will be “dead,” and if an infection is spread at apex, root end surgery is required. Although the procedure is relatively painless when done properly[1], the root canal remains a stereotypically fearsome dental operation, and, in the United States, a common response to an unpleasant proposal is, “I’d rather have a root canal.”