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Sometimes the pulp inside your tooth becomes inflamed or infected. This is caused by deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, a crack or chip in the tooth, or a blow to the tooth. The inflammation may also be known as a root canal, and if you have ever had one of these, chances are you have visited an endodontist. Endodontists are dentists who specialize in endodontic or root canal treatment.

Root canal, or endodontic treatment, is a procedure performed to remove damaged tissue from inside the root canals of a tooth. Endodontists usually limit their practice to endodontic procedures. The endodontist performs a type of treatment on the inflamed area. Afterwards, you return to your general dentist, who will place a crown or other restoration on the tooth to protect it and restore it to full function.

Unless one's teeth are in grave danger, an endodontist will recommend a non-surgical technique, most commonly known as root canal treatment. This treatment is necessary when the soft inner tissue of the tooth, the pulp, becomes inflamed or infected. A root canal treatment involves removal of the damaged pulp. The canals are then cleaned, filled and sealed to preserve the tooth.

Sometimes endodontic treatment alone cannot save your tooth, and your dentist or endodontist may recommend endodontic surgery. Endodontic surgery includes any surgical procedures used to remove infection from your root canals and surrounding areas. Surgery can also be used in diagnosing problems that do not appear on your x-ray, such as root fractures, or in treating problems in the surrounding bone.

The most common endodontic surgical procedure is an apicoectomy or root-end resection. It is used to relieve inflammation or infection in the bony area around the end of your tooth that continues after endodontic treatment. The endodontist opens the gum tissue and removes the infected tissue and may remove the very end of the root. A small filling may be placed to seal the root canal. In this procedure, endodontists use local anesthetics, such as freezing. The surgery is quickly performed and patients can return to their daily lives within 24 hours.

The practice of endodontics involves the diagnosis and treatment of pulpal and periapical pathology. Beside root canal treatment, they also re-treat previously treated teeth, perform other surgical procedures, root resections, dental implants, vital and non-vital bleaching, apexification, and treatment of traumatic injuries to the teeth and gums.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Endodontists must have good health, eyesight, and good finger and manual dexterity. They must have a gentle, delicate touch and a good degree of mechanical aptitude and ability. They require great interpersonal skills, and can communicate with all of their patients, trying to make them feel more comfortable. They also have the ability to understand and handle many different types and ages of people. Successful endodontists enjoy doing precise work with tools and equipment, and helping people.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Examine patients' teeth, gums and surrounding tissue to diagnose endodontical disease or root canals and plan appropriate surgical and non-surgical treatment
  • Educate patients to help to prevent root canals or other endodontical diseases
  • Restore, extract and replace diseased and decayed teeth
  • Perform oral surgery and other root canal treatments
  • Treat diseased gum tissue and bone
  • Supervise dental technicians, dental assistants and other staff
  • Most endodontists work eight-hour days during the week, but in order to meet patient time constraints, some may also work weekends and evenings. After hours emergency care is sometimes required; depending on the endodontist's specialty area. Endodontists perform most of their work sitting down, often in uncomfortable positions. This is often a high stress occupation due to working with people who are in pain and are often afraid of them.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Most endodontists work in private practices or they may be employed in hospitals, clinics, public health facilities or universities. Directly upon graduation, endodontists may engage in private practice, however, these days, partnerships with established dental practitioners and group practices are becoming increasingly popular. Better opportunities exist in smaller towns and city centers where the market has yet to be saturated. Some endodontists work for governmental health services.

  Long Term Career Potential  
With experience and a growing clientele, endodontists may decide to branch out and open up their own practices. Career possibilities may include academic dental research or moving outside of endodontical practice to work as dental educators, researchers, administrators, or sales representatives for dental supply companies. Some may also decide to move into more creative or artistic positions. Many move into specialty areas, such as cosmetic dentistry, or become surgeons.

  Educational Paths  
Endodontists have a long educational road ahead of them after high school. They are required have a bachelor of science degree as the first level. The next step is to obtain a degree from a recognized dental program. Then endodontists must attend a two- or three-year advanced dental program in endodontics and will receive a certificate and/or master's degree in endodontics upon completion of the program. The specialty training includes the basic biological sciences, technology and clinical procedures.

Endodontists must be licensed to practice dentistry and endodontistry. Each region has a licensing body that establishes regulations and requirements for the licensure of general practitioners and specialists within the jurisdiction. There are fees for licensure and specialty registration in each region, which may change annually. Contact the regulatory authority in your jurisdiction to obtain detailed information about licensure, registration, and fees.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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