Why Do You Need an Endodontic Evaluation Prior to Treatment?

If you recently learned that you need endodontic treatment, you also need an examination. This might be confusing, and you might wonder why you need an endodontic evaluation from your endodontist when your dentist already examined you.

Endodontists are dental specialists who strive to save their patients’ natural teeth whenever possible. They complete two years of advanced training in addition to dental school. Endodontists specialize in root canals, treating traumatic dental injuries, and more.

Before your endodontist can treat you, they need a thorough picture of the situation. Even though your dentist has already evaluated your tooth, your endodontist needs to take a look with the expertise and experience that comes with their specialty. Please note this article is no substitute for personalized medical or dental care. We hope it is informative since we believe an informed patient can make the best choices about their health.

When Do You Need to See an Endodontist?

According to the American Association of Endodontists, some signs that you may need endodontic care include:

  • You are experiencing tooth pain or sensitivity to hot or cold.
  • You have an injured or damaged tooth.
  • There is swelling around the tooth.

If you experience any of the previously mentioned symptoms, make an appointment with your dentist for an endodontic evaluation. If your dentist finds that you need a root canal or other endodontic care, consider asking for a referral to an endodontist.

You aren’t alone if you feel a little uneasy to learn you may need a root canal. Feel assured that it is a highly effective procedure that offers relief from pain. If you need a root canal, chances are it is a viable alternative to a dental extraction.

Wherever possible, modern dental professionals prefer to save natural teeth. There are numerous benefits to keeping your natural smile intact, including:

  • Maintaining a more natural appearance.
  • Giving you an easier time of chewing efficiently.
  • Maintaining the normal bite.
  • Protecting your other teeth from unnecessary strain and wear.

The chances of a successful root canal increase when a specialist like an endodontist is involved. According to the American Association of Endodontists, an endodontist typically performs 25 root canal treatments a week, while most general dentists perform around 2 a week. An endodontist is typically more experienced performing root canals and other restorative treatments than a general dentist.

Endodontists can fix prior failed root canals, perform the first root canal on a tooth, or perform other endodontic treatment. Regardless of the procedure, the first step is always the endodontic evaluation, which helps determine the path forward to oral health.

What Happens During an Endodontic Evaluation?

It’s important you know that all root canals are not created equal. What kind of root canal do you need? It’s honestly customized to you, your mouth, your teeth, and your situation.

An endodontic evaluation first and foremost aims to identify which tooth or teeth are causing your pain. Next, the endodontist will assess the damage and identify potential treatments.

From the start, inform your endodontist of your full medical and dental history. Let’s face it, you have a heartbeat, and everyone is different, so we need to make sure we care for you as an individual. Knowing your complete history helps your dental care provider better understand the context of any injuries and damage to your teeth. Because of the way our healthcare system is set up, it’s easy to consider your dental health and the rest of your medical health to be separate. But your mouth is truly the gateway to your body, and it’s an important part of your whole-body health.

As your endodontist learns about your tooth, they’ll take a look at whether you’ve previously had a root canal on this tooth, if there’s a crown on the tooth, if there’s a post in the tooth, if the tooth is cracked, and more. They’ll also pay attention to how you’re feeling. It’s common for patients to be nervous, so we evaluate what your blood pressure is and whether a sedative like a valium could help you be more comfortable.

Your endodontist may need to know about the source of your pain. For example, they will want to know about your specific symptoms, where you feel pain, how long you have experienced the pain, and more. They’ll ask if you want to try to save your tooth or if you want to extract it, and they’ll help you understand the impact of that decision. And some teeth can’t be saved, so your endodontist will help you understand what to expect and whether a different type of specialist might be a better fit for you. Plus they’ll take a look to see if there are any sinus tracts or nerves close to the tooth, as this will impact your treatment plan.

Talk frankly with your dental health team members, as their goal is to find the best way forward. Don’t hold back! Every little bit of information could be useful to them. The answers to these questions aren’t on the referral form your dentist shared with your specialist, so it’s up to you to help your endodontist out.

Possible Diagnostic Tests

Your endodontist will clinically examine you, looking for visual cues like swelling, cracks or decay in your teeth, facial asymmetry, signs of issues with the sinus tract and soft tissue, and the overall condition of your teeth.

The evaluation process also involves imaging using specialized equipment. The root canal system is complex, and the tiny canals are intricate and unique to your teeth. State-of-the-art imaging techniques like x-rays and microscopes provide a useful “roadmap” for your dental team.

Occasionally patients feel wary of x-rays because of radiation exposure. We want to reassure you that imaging like x-rays is essential to effective endodontic treatment, and it is safe. Something very powerful happens when you marry your dentist’s clinical evaluation with their radiographic (x-ray) evaluation. It’s so important to help you get the right diagnosis and treatment plan! 

Ballantyne Endodontics uses an advanced non-film computerized system called digital radiography. This technology produces low radiation levels up to 90 percent lower than those of already low-dose conventional dental x-ray machinery. You’ll be exposed to far less radiation with your dental x-rays than you would taking a flight all the way across the United States.

We also use Cone Beam 3D technology which is another type of specialized imaging equipment. Honestly, it’s our favorite, because it’s so powerful! Cone Beam provides three-dimensional images of the patient’s teeth, soft tissues, nerve pathways, and bone, all within a single scan.

During an endodontic evaluation, your endodontist will examine the roots of your teeth, as well as the pulp. The pulp contains highly sensitive nerves; it may be inflamed or infected, and the severity must be assessed. Pulp examinations may involve an electric pulp test, as well as testing sensitivity to cold and heat. During a root canal, your endodontist will thoroughly clean and disinfect the pulp within your affected tooth.

A thorough examination helps your endodontist diagnose the extent of the damage to the teeth and which treatment options may be most effective. Before treatment, your endodontist must first determine whether you will benefit from treatment such as non-vital pulp therapy or a root canal.

Your endodontist may also perform periapical tests, which can involve assessment of your bite, and may use percussion or palpation.

The exact combination of diagnostic tests may vary depending on your condition and history. Treating you holistically and as an individual are core values to our team at Ballantyne Endodontics.

We hope you found this quick overview both helpful and reassuring. During your consultation, your team will talk you through the process in more detail tailored to your particular situation.

Next Steps: Schedule an Appointment

At Ballantyne Endodontics, we feel privileged that Charlotte-area residents trust their smiles to us. We strive to save our patients’ natural teeth, relieve their pain, and help restore their wellbeing. Our team has extensive experience as oral health care providers and, in some cases, even as patients. That’s right — we’ve been in the patient chair, too!

We combine compassionate, patient-centered care with state-of-the-art technology and advanced techniques so that you can get the best treatment possible. As a team, we have helped patients move forward from traumatic injuries, previous failed treatments, and oral health disease. With decades of combined experience, we’re the experts you want in your corner.

Whatever brings you to our office needing endodontic care, we are here for you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation or ask your dentist for a referral to Ballantyne Endodontics.