FAQs

Please review these commonly asked questions. If you have a question that is not answered here please contact us.

An Endodontist is a licensed Dentist that has continued at least two more years, of advanced specialized education focusing on treating the pulp (the tissue inside the root channel or canal)  and surrounding tissue of teeth. When you view your own tooth in the mirror, you are seeing the crown of the tooth. The portion below the gum line, is the called, the root. The outermost, hard tissue layer of the root is called the dentin , and inside the root is a channel or canal containing  soft tissue, blood vessels, and nerves, called pulp. Bacteria can invade into the pulp as a result of tooth decay, gum disease, tooth fracture, or other problems, and can damage the pulp itself. When that occurs, an Endodontist removes he diseased pulp to save the tooth and prevent further infection and inflammation. After successful treatment, the tooth functions normally.

If you are experiencing some of the following symptoms, it might mean it is time to get a diagnostic from an Endodontist. Here are some of the indications a root canal might be warranted:

  • Pain
  • Prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold
  • Swelling
  • Gum tenderness
  • Discoloration of the tooth

Sometimes, there are no symptoms when the pulp degenerates and it is detected by dental examination and imaging.

The pulp, inside of the root of the tooth, consists of blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. The pulp can become inflamed or infected due to a variety of causes like:

Deep decay, repeated dental procedures on the tooth, a crack, chip, or blow to the tooth.

If an inflamed or infected pulp is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.

Dr. Widman will remove the diseased pulp from inside of the tooth, carefully clean and shape the root canal spaces and then seal the prepared canals with special filling materials.

During your examination, Dr. Widman will thoroughly explain what has occurred inside your tooth, and discuss treatment options, as well as answer any questions that arise. Dr. Widman will complete most procedures within a single visit.

With modern anesthetic techniques, people report having a root canal is as unremarkable as having a filling placed. Dr. Widman will assure that you tooth is “asleep” prior to starting the procedure. After treatment, there may be some sensitivity to chewing for a few days. An analgesic like Advil, Aleve, Tylenol is usually sufficient to help you through any residual discomfort. It is normal for the tooth to feel differently for a while after the treatment is complete, however, if you have severe pain or pressure, please contact our office.

Please avoid biting or chewing anything hard in the treated area for the first few days. If your tooth requires a crown , you should avoid chewing hard things until you see your general dentist. If a temporary filling was placed by Dr. Widman, you will need to return to your general dentist for a permanent restoration on the top of your tooth, usually a crown. It is best to do this within 30 days of your root canal to avoid the loss of the temporary filling, and any subsequent bacterial reinfection or tooth fracture. We will send a complete report and copy of your digital x-rays to your general dentist.

Your tooth will survive even though the pulp is removed because the surrounding tissues is still providing nourishment. With regular brushing, flossing, proper diet, and dental checkups, your tooth should last for many years. While there is no guarantee, the success rate of endodontic procedures is very high. Most teeth are restorable. Occasionally, an additional surgical procedure or removal of the tooth is warranted.

Often the only viable alternative treatment is to remove the tooth. The extracted tooth must then be replaced with an implant, bridge or removable partial denture to restore chewing function and prevent the adjacent teeth from shifting. These options require extensive surgery or further procedures on adjacent teeth and can be far more costly and time consuming that the restoration of your own natural tooth via a root canal treatment.

If your endodontically treated tooth has not healed or has developed new problems, you have the option of another procedure called endodontic surgery or apicoectomy. If endodontic retreatment is not an option due to a canal obstruction or a post being present in the canal , then endodontic surgery should be considered. Dr. Widman will open the gingival tissue near the tooth to examine the underlying bone and remove any inflamed or infected tissue.  The removal of the very end of the root is called an apicoectomy. After cleaning the root end, a small biocompatible filling is placed to seal the canal. Over a period of months, the bone heals around the end of the root. Most patients return to work or other daily life activities the next day.

The inflamed pulp tissue inside the tooth will eventually break down and die. Bacteria will have access to the jaw bone and your blood stream. This leads to bone destruction, swelling or drainage from the gum. When enough bone is destroyed, the only treatment option would be to pull the tooth (see above). An untreated infection can potentially lead to facial swelling, possibly leading to life threatening situations of obstructed airway or brain abscess. Untreated chronic jaw infections have also been linked to systemic health problems such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

We use an advanced non-film computerized digital radiographic system. It has 90% less radiation exposure than already low-dose conventional dental x-ray machinery. For more detailed information, please contact Sirona Dental Systems, Inc.

We adhere to the most rigorous standards of infection control advocated by OSHA, WISHA, the CDC, and American Dental Association. We utilize autoclave sterilization, barrier techniques and many single use dental supplies.

Following your treatment with Dr. Widman, your records will be sent to your general dentist. Please contact them for a follow-up restoration within a few weeks of completion in our office.

Although infrequent patients sometimes experience complications after routine endodontic treatment or microsurgery. If a problem does occur, however, we are available at all times to respond.

Steven W. Widman, DDS
1310 Broadway, Suite 1B
Bellingham, WA 98225

Hours: 7:30am – 4:00pm,  M-Th.

Phone: 360-734-4777
Fax: 360-734-1895