Highly trained endodontists (dental specialists) repair tissues inside your tooth. They diagnose and treat complex causes of tooth pain, such as tooth abscesses (infection). Endodontists perform root canal treatments and other procedures to relieve pain. They work to save your natural tooth.

What is an endodontist?

An endodontist is a dental specialist who focuses on complex tooth problems that primarily affect tooth pulp. Tooth “pulp” is what dental providers call the nerves, blood vessels and other tissues deep inside each tooth. When you look in the mirror, the part of your teeth you see is an outer layer called enamel.

Endodontists use advanced techniques to treat dental pulp and root issues. Your root is the part of your tooth that extends below your gums and holds your tooth in place. Endodontists focus on relieving tooth or mouth pain while saving your natural tooth whenever possible.

What does an endodontist do?

Endodontists specialize in diagnosing and treating complex causes of tooth pain. They work to relieve the pain while preserving your natural tooth. Endodontists are skilled at saving teeth — even severely damaged or decayed teeth.

Common reasons to see an endodontist

Endodontists primarily treat damaged tooth pulp or root tissues arising from the following causes:

  • Tooth decay: the breakdown of a tooth that results from poor teeth and gum care (oral hygiene). You may see an endodontist if an untreated cavity damages your tooth’s root tissues. Tooth decay can cause inflammation (pulpitis) or even death (necrosis) and infection in the pulp tissue.
  • Tooth injuries: Trauma affecting your tooth (such as from a hard fall).
  • Tooth abscess: A buildup of pus that forms when bacteria gets inside your tooth or gums.
  • Cracked tooth: Damage to your tooth that allows an opening for bacteria to get inside.

Endodontics procedures

Endodontists are sometimes called root canal dentists. While general dentists and endodontists both perform root canal treatment, endodontists perform this procedure much more often. The additional training and higher treatment volume mean that endodontists are the experts in doing root canals.

Endodontists perform multiple procedures:

  • Root canal: Removes damaged or infected tooth pulp and reseals the tooth to prevent reinfection.
  • Endodontic retreatment: Removes and replaces materials from a previous root canal that didn’t heal properly.
  • Endodontic surgery: Specialized surgery, such as apicoectomy (removal of the end, or tip, of a tooth’s root).
  • Emergency dental surgery: May involve repairing complex dental injuries or treating severe tooth infections.
  • Tooth extraction (removal) surgery: Pulling a tooth because there’s too much tissue damage for a provider to save it.
  • Dental implant surgery: Surgical placement of a dental implant. A provider can use the implant to support prosthetics, such as bridges, and to restore the look and function of your teeth after you have a tooth removed.

All endodontists are also dentists, which means they may perform the same procedures common in general dentistry, including cleanings, whitenings, veneers, crowns and others.

How does an endodontist test a tooth?

Endodontists have specialized training to diagnose many complex causes of tooth, mouth (oral) and facial pain. An endodontist may check your symptoms by performing one or more tests:

  • Dental X-rays: Capture clear details of tooth structures.
  • Hot or cold swabs: Test your tooth’s sensitivity when it comes into contact with different temperatures.
  • Tapping on teeth: May provide clues to what tooth has inflammation and how far the inflammation has spread, especially if your teeth are sensitive to the tapping.

How does an endodontist compare to a dentist?

All endodontists are dentists, healthcare providers who diagnose and treat oral health conditions. But less than 3% of dentists receive the extra training to become endodontists. An endodontist is just one type of dental specialist:

  • Endodontist: A dental specialist who diagnoses and treats conditions affecting the inside of your teeth.
  • Periodontist: A dental specialist who treats the tissues surrounding your teeth, like your gums and jawbone.
  • Orthodontist: A dental specialist who straightens your teeth and aligns your bite.
  • Oral surgeon: A dental specialist who performs complex surgery on your teeth, gums or jawbone. Oral surgeons include maxillofacial surgeons, who remove wisdom teeth.

What kind of training does an endodontist receive?

Dental school takes about four years to complete. After dental school, an endodontist receives at least two more years of focused dental training. During this time, endodontists study techniques to diagnose and treat tooth pain that affects tissues inside your teeth.

What can I expect after an endodontic procedure?

How you feel after an endodontic treatment depends on your specific problem and its severity. Most endodontic treatments are outpatient procedures (you go home soon after your procedure). You may feel minor discomfort after a root canal treatment. Some people feel well enough to return to work the same day.

Your mouth or tooth may feel sore for a few days after your procedure. More extensive surgery may cause discomfort that’s more severe or lasts longer. Your provider may prescribe medication to ease your pain, fight infection or help your body heal.

After a root canal, you may need to follow up with your regular dentist. Your provider may fit a crown (metal or porcelain covering) on top of your tooth to fully protect and restore your repaired tooth. It’s important to follow your provider’s instructions to ensure your tooth heals the way it should.


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When should I call an endodontist?

Call a dental provider you trust to evaluate any tooth pain that doesn’t go away or gets worse. Waiting to get your tooth checked may decrease the chances your provider will be able to save your natural tooth.

You may need to call an endodontist if you have:

  • Lingering tooth pain.
  • Unexplained pain in your mouth or jaw.
  • Teeth that are sensitive to heat, cold or sweet foods.
  • Inflammation near affected teeth or gums.

Some causes of tooth pain (such as a tooth abscess) are dangerous if left untreated long enough. Seek immediate treatment if you injure your mouth in an accident or experience possible signs of infection, such as:

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Endodontists are dental specialists who can diagnose and treat complex causes of tooth pain. If you have ongoing tooth or mouth pain, reach out to an endodontist for help. They can help pinpoint what’s causing the problem, and they can perform procedures that can relieve pain or discomfort. Often, these treatments relieve symptoms while saving your natural tooth. It’s important to take tooth pain seriously. See a dental provider who can help.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 01/10/2023.

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