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Lee A. Fulsaas, D.D.S. - Root Canal Specialist

 

General Information

What is an Endodontist and why are they different than a general dentist?

Endodontists are dentists who specialize in maintaining teeth through endodontic therapy or procedures, involving the soft inner tissue of the teeth, called the pulp.  The word "endodontic" comes from "endo" meaning inside and "odont" meaning tooth.  Like many medical terms, it's Greek.  Dr. Fulsaas practiced as a general dentist for 14 years before he returned to school to specialize in endodontics.  During his years as a general dentist, Dr. Fulsaas attended a 2 year Advanced Education in General Dentistry residency and completed the American Board of General Dentistry.  After completion of the two years endodontic specialty training, Dr. Fulsaas again earned his board certification, this time with the American Board of Endodontics.  The breadth and depth of his training and knowledge sets him apart from other endodontists.   For this reason, many dentists choose to refer their patients to Dr. Fulsaas.

Are root canals always successful?

There are, of course, no guarantees.  A study of 1.5 million root canals showed that after 8 years, the patients still retained the tooth 98% of the time.  We will discuss with you the chances of success before any endodontic procedure to help you make an informed decision.  If a root canal or endodontic therapy does not save your natural tooth, you still have options.

American Dental Association video on Treating An Abscessed Tooth

What happens during endodontic treatment? or What is a root canal?

Prior to the procedure, a radiograph is taken, exam performed, and testing of the suspected tooth or teeth is accomplished.  Dr. Fulsaas uses the results to determine if a root canal is warranted.  If so, a local anesthetic will be given.  A green sheet of rubber called a rubber dam is placed around the tooth to isolate it, hence keeping it clean and dry during treatment.  Many patients find the use of a rubber dam greatly diminishes the discomfort of dental procedures. The dam prohibits the taste of tooth tissue and decay being removed and of the materials used to cleanse and fill the tooth.  Dr. Fulsaas uses a surgical operating microscope to locate and remove the pulp from the canals of the tooth.  After thorough cleaning, the canals are filled with a rubber like material called gutta percha. 

Usually a root canal can be completed in one visit but it depends on the degree of infection/inflammation and difficulty of treatment.  Occasionally, multiple appointments are required.

You may be wondering how a tooth filled with rubber will be functional and not problematic, as when it was filled with the pulp.  Well, the pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue that are responsible for forming the surrounding dentin and enamel during tooth development. The pulp receives its nourishment supply from vessels which enter the end of the root. Although the pulp is important during development of the tooth, it is not necessary for function of the tooth. The tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it even after the pulp is removed but minus pain and/or likelihood that an abscess will develop and contaminate surrounding teeth.

Diagnoses and Treats Pain

Oral pain such as toothaches or cracked / fractured teeth can often be difficult to pinpoint.  Because of the vast network of nerves in the mouth, the pain of a damaged or diseased tooth often is felt in another tooth and/or in the head, neck, or ear. An endodontist is a specialist in diagnosing and treating this type of pain.

Treats Traumatic Injuries

Pulp damage is sometimes caused by a blow to the mouth, and the endodontist specializes in treating these traumatic injuries. For example, a blow to a child's permanent tooth that is not fully developed can cause the root to stop growing. A procedure called apexification stimulates bone to be deposited at the end of the root which makes it possible to then save the tooth through a root canal procedure. An endodontist is specially trained in procedures for replanting teeth that have been knocked out of their sockets.

Will I need to return to your office for additional visits?

Once endodontic therapy is completed your tooth should be examined periodically.   You will be sent a notice in approximately 1 year for re-evaluation of the tooth and surrounding area.  This appointment is at no charge to you.  If symptoms should occur on the treated tooth prior to the re-evaluation appointment, please call our office.  Since an abscess may take 2 years or more to heal, you may be scheduled for additional re-evaluations.

Retreatment

Occasionally a tooth that has undergone endodontic, treatment fails to heal or pain continues despite therapy. Although rare, sometimes a tooth initially responds to root canal therapy but becomes painful or diseased months or years later. When either of these situations occur, the tooth often can be maintained with a second endodontic treatment.