Endodontist: Your Tooth Extraction & Root Canal Specialist

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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What is an endodontist?

An endodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases and conditions of the dental pulp, tooth root, and surrounding tissues. The dental pulp is the soft connective tissue inside a tooth that contains blood vessels and nerves. An endodontist is a root canal specialist. The overall goal of endodontists is to help people retain their natural teeth with preventive care and endodontic surgery.

An endodontist typically: 

  • Evaluates the patient's dental and medical history and performs a dental and oral exam

  • Teaches patients about dental and oral conditions and diseases, good oral hygiene, and oral disease prevention

  • Orders and interprets laboratory and imaging tests such as X-rays

  • Prescribes medications including antibiotics and pain medications

  • Diagnoses diseases and conditions of the dental pulp, tooth root, and tissue surrounding the root

  • Treats various diseases affecting dental pulp and root of the tooth including pulp infections and cracked teeth

  • Administers anesthesia and performs root canals, tooth extractions, and endodontic surgery

  • Makes referrals to and collaborates with other dental specialists to ensure optimal care

An endodontist may also be known by the following terms: dentist, root canal dentist, root canal doctor, or root canal specialist.

Who should see an endodontist?

Your general dentist may refer you to an endodontist. Consider seeing an endodontist if you have diseases or conditions that affect the dental pulp, tooth root, or tissues surrounding the root, such as severe dental decay or broken teeth. If your dentist recommends extracting your tooth, see an endodontist first. Generally, the sooner you start treatment, the better the chance of saving the tooth. When you need of expert tooth and oral health care, find an experienced and qualified endodontist near you. 

When should you see an endodontist?

Endodontists care for people with the following symptoms and conditions:

  • Chipped, broken or cracked tooth

  • Gum inflammation, swelling or bleeding associated with an infected tooth (abscess)

  • Lymph node swelling or tenderness

  • Prolonged sensitivity to hot and cold liquids or foods

  • Tooth, mouth or jaw pain or tenderness occurring with or without chewing

What does an endodontist treat?

An endodontist diagnoses and treats a variety of conditions and diseases that affect the dental pulp, tooth root, and surrounding tissues. Conditions and diseases include:  

  • Abnormal or problematic tooth anatomy

  • Advanced dental caries (cavities) or tooth decay that is near or into the pulp

  • Broken, cracked or chipped teeth that involve the pulp

  • Calcium deposits in the root canal

  • Gum disease (periodontal disease) caused by an infected tooth (abscess)

  • Infections at the tip of the root caused by diseased pulp (periapical lesions)

  • Inflamed or infected tooth pulp

  • Root fractures

What does an endodontist test?

An endodontist can order or perform a variety of diagnostic tests. These tests include:

  • Diagnostic surgery to detect problems that cannot be viewed on X-ray

  • Imaging tests to evaluate tooth decay and other problems. Imaging tests include CT (computed tomography) scans, and bitewing, periapical and panoramic X-rays of all the teeth and both jaws

  • Oral exam including your dental and medical history. This can include a fiber optic light exam to see decay, cracks in the tooth, and other abnormal tissue.

  • Pulp test to help diagnose the health of the pulp and determine if your tooth can be saved

  • Sensitivity tests including temperature sensitivity tests and tooth tapping

What procedures and treatments does an endodontist perform or order?

Common endodontic procedures and treatments include: 

  • Apicoectomy, or root-end resection, which is the surgical removal of the root tip and diseased tissue

  • Intentional replantation, which is the surgical removal, treatment and replacement of a tooth

  • Root canal, which is nonsurgical removal of the nerve and diseased pulp inside the tooth. The space inside the tooth is cleaned out, filled, and sealed.

  • Root surgery including repair and removal of a diseased root and surrounding tissue

  • Tooth extraction in cases where endodontic treatment cannot save the tooth. Some endodontists also perform dental implants after tooth extractions.

Endodontist training and certification

When choosing an endodontist, look for one who is board certified by the American Board of Endodontics. A dentist may practice endodontics without becoming board certified in the specialty, but board certification in endodontics verifies the dentist has the necessary training and surgical skills to deliver a high level of care.

Board-certified endodontists have:

  • Completed three or more years of undergraduate education

  • Completed a degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) from a dental school accredited by the American Dental Association

  • Completed the requirements for state licensure to practice dentistry

  • Completed at least two additional years of advanced specialty education and training in an endodontics program accredited by the American Dental Association

  • Passed written, case history, and oral examinations

To maintain board certification, an endodontist must complete continuing education credit and be recertified every ten years. Some states require a given number of continuing education hours every two years in order to maintain the state license. Board certification, accepted insurance, location information, and patient reviews will help you narrow your search results and pick an excellent provider.  

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jan 22
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

  1. American Association of Endodontists. http://aae.org/

  2. American Board of Endodontics. http://aae.org/Board/

  3. Treatment Options for the Compromised Tooth. American Association of Endodontists. http://www.aae.org/uploadedFiles/TreatmentOptionsGuideWeb.pdf

  4. Treatment Options for the Diseased Tooth. American Association of Endodontists. http://www.aae.org/Patients/Treatments-and-Procedures/Implants/Treatment-Options-for-the-Diseased-Tooth.aspx