You need a complex medical procedure that includes your mouth or teeth. But do you go to an endodontist or an oral surgeon? What are the differences between each specialty? What do they offer? This will give you a better understanding of whose help to seek out when you’re struggling with a painful or serious problem.
What Does an Endodontist Do?
An endodontist is a dentist with several years of training and experience related to the inner chambers of teeth. It’s easier to remember if you think of the parts of the word:
- Endo: Refers to “inside” of something.
- Odont: Refers to teeth (used in “orthodontist” and similar words).
There are chambers inside each tooth root that hold nerves, blood vessels, and tissue. These all nourish the tooth as it is growing. The area itself is called the “root canal,” which many people think is just the name of a procedure but is actually a part of each tooth.
A main goal of your endodontist is to save your natural tooth structure. Keeping your own tooth is usually a far superior option to having it extracted and then waiting to get a replacement tooth. To that end, your endodontist uses tools like microscopes, miniature instruments, and even sound waves or lasers to treat the miniscule spaces inside teeth.
Two of the important procedures performed by an endodontist are:
- Root Canal Treatment: This is a cleaning and disinfection of the inside of a tooth. When bacteria gets into the tissues there, it can spread, causing inflammation and tooth decay from the inside. The endodontist removes the infected tissue, cleans the chamber walls, leaves biocompatible filler there, and closes and protects the tooth.
- Apicoectomy: The doctor accesses the tip of a tooth root through the gums, enters it with small instruments, cleans decayed tissue there, replaces it, and seals the root end.
An infected tooth can’t always be saved, but your endodontist will likely recommend one of these treatments when you have good odds of keeping your natural tooth. Your family dentist will refer you to an endodontist if you need treatment inside of a tooth’s chambers.
What Does an Oral Surgeon Do?
An oral surgeon’s job description is very different from that of an endodontist. They often have experience operating on any part of the mouth or face. They are trained as doctors and surgeons, with an additional four to six years of training in oral and maxillofacial surgery.
You might go to an oral surgeon to get these types of procedures:
- Repair of a cleft lip or palate.
- Removal and replacement of teeth.
- Reconstruction of facial bones.
- Setting broken facial or jaw bones.
- The removal of an oral tumor or cancerous lesion.
- Extraction of impacted teeth, such as wisdom teeth.
- Operations on oral and facial soft tissues.
- Drainage of infected oral or facial tissue.
- Insertion of dental implants.
- Jaw operations.
- Sleep apnea surgery.
If you need general anesthesia—the strongest form of anesthesia, which places patients in an unconscious state—that is usually the type of procedure performed by an oral surgeon (though some of their services require only local anesthesia). Their services often cover broad areas of the face, rather than microscopic surgery on a tooth root.
Do You Need an Endodontist or Oral Surgeon?
If you have a moderate infection inside a single tooth—often indicated by a toothache, fever, or facial swelling—your endodontist may be able to perform a delicate root canal treatment to cure and save the tooth.
If a root canal infection has progressed too far and spread to other teeth, an oral surgeon may be the right choice for a tooth extraction and tooth implant. Replacing a tooth is more expensive than cleaning a tooth, so procrastination can be very costly.
If a tooth is cracked, your endodontist may need to examine it and ensure that the internal pulp is protected from infection. But if the crack is too severe, your endodontist can refer you to an oral surgeon to extract the tooth.
Don’t Wait—Treat Tooth Pain Today!
Contact Creekside Endodontics, your specialist in Lone Tree, CO, if you have an infected or damaged tooth. We are experienced in saving teeth and always recommend the best options for our patients and friends.