You may have heard of an endodontist, a dental specialist who focuses on saving teeth. In most cases, you will benefit from seeing an endodontist if you need a root canal or have undiagnosed persistent pain. When considering seeking a specialist instead of your general dentist, one of your first questions may be, “do I need a referral to see an endodontist?”
The quick answer is yes, ideally, because your general dentist will be able to give the endodontist context about your teeth. However, you don’t need a referral to see an endodontist or other dental specialist in the same way as you need a referral from your general practitioner doctor to see a medical specialist.
The long answer is a little more complicated since your insurance coverage may have different requirements. Before we get into that, let’s look at what an endodontist is and how one may help you.
Please remember this article is for educational purposes and doesn’t replace professional dental care.
Should I see an endodontist?
Endodontists are dental specialists who focus on saving natural teeth and treating issues related to dental pulps. Root canals are among the best-known treatments offered by endodontists.
Endodontists’ advanced training and expertise make them well-equipped to handle complex cases and provide patients with the best possible care. However, many people may wonder if they need a referral from their general dentist to see an endodontist or whether they can directly schedule an appointment.
In this article, we will explore the process of obtaining a referral to see an endodontist, the situations in which a referral may be necessary, and the benefits of seeking specialized endodontic care. By understanding the referral process and the importance of endodontic treatment, patients can make informed decisions about their dental health and ensure they receive the most appropriate care for their specific needs.
While general dentists can and do perform root canals, the reality is that endodontists are generally much more well-equipped to provide the treatment. According to the American Association of Endodontists, a typical general dentist performs two root canals per week on average. Conversely, a typical endodontist performs an average of 25 root canals weekly. In other words, a general dentist may perform 104 root canals a year vs. an endodontist who may perform 1,300 root canals yearly. Think about this accumulating over years of professional experience.
Endodontists gain more experience to hone their technique, the motivation to invest in the best technology (when you do one procedure so often, it makes more sense to invest in top-of-the-line specialized technology), and extensive exposure to different situations, which will allow them to navigate potential complications more easily. Would you prefer to take your car to a mechanic who has worked on 104 or 1,300 cars? Experience matters.
Coordinating care with your general dentist
Even if you seek care from an endodontist, there are benefits to keeping your general dentist in the loop, especially if you have a good patient-dentist relationship. It saves your endodontist time when they can access your records or talk with your dentist, allowing you to get out of pain sooner. When your general dentist gives you a referral to see an endodontist, they include helpful information on the referral slip that lets the endodontist start with more pieces of the puzzle.
The images or x-rays your dentist took might also give an endodontist crucial information. But don’t be surprised if your endodontist runs a new set of tests and needs additional images. An endodontist typically invests in tools that would be too expensive for a general dentist, since they only perform a limited number of root canals or other treatments where these images become important.
As specialists, endodontists prefer to learn the complete background of each patient’s oral health. Sometimes they can see patterns in the symptoms that a general practitioner might overlook, and these patterns may help them focus their diagnostic efforts.
Also, your dentist may believe you need to see a different specialist, like an oral surgeon, depending on your oral health concerns. When all of your healthcare providers can act as a team, you get the best of their combined expertise.
Your oral health dream team
Dentistry is truly a multi-disciplinary art and science. Your general dentist is your primary touch point for maintaining oral health and teaching you the best preventative care techniques. For many people, the general dentist is all you need if you are genetically fortunate, maintain excellent oral hygiene, see your dentist regularly, and don’t experience accidents or illnesses that impact your teeth. Some people may only ever need their professional cleanings and routine care like fillings.
Other people may benefit from specialists like orthodontists, oral surgeons, endodontists, or cosmetic dentists to resolve more complex issues they may experience during different stages of their lives.
Even if general dentists can cover some of these needs, they often don’t have the extensive experience, specialized expertise, and equipment to do the job as well as a specialist. A team approach is ideal to make sure you get the best possible care and outcomes.
As endodontists, our specialization is saving natural teeth. Nothing feels quite as good or fits your mouth as well as your own teeth. Root canal treatment, an apicoectomy, or other endodontic care can restore the tooth after trauma or infection and get to the literal root of your problems.
We at Ballantyne Endodontics know what it is like to experience those complex issues, which can cause suffering prior to treatment. Our founder, Dr. Sonia Chopra, D.D.S., sometimes describes herself as “the ultimate dental patient.” She was born missing eight teeth and experienced a number of dental issues in her youth. As a result, she has spent a lot of time at the dentist throughout her lifetime. She experienced the pain and frustration of undiagnosed pain firsthand. Eventually, it was a compassionate endodontist who gave her the root canal she desperately needed, changed her life, and put her on her path toward saving as many teeth as possible in her own career. If you live in the Charlotte area and need endodontic care, contact Ballantyne Endodontics to learn more about how to get a referral from your dentist and to learn more about your options.