Patient Information

Endodontic FAQS

What is endodontics?

     Endodontics is a branch of dentistry recognized by the American Dental Association involving treatment of the pulp (root canal) and surrounding tissues of the tooth. When you look at your tooth in the mirror, what you see is the crown. The rest of the tooth, the portion hidden beneath the gum line, is called the root. Though the outer portion of the root is a hard tissue called dentin, the inside channel or "root canal" contains a pulp of soft tissue, blood vessels and nerves. Bacteria that are introduced into the pulp as a result of tooth decay, periodontal disease, tooth fracture or other problems, can severely damage the pulp. When that happens, an endodontic specialist removes the diseased pulp to save the tooth and prevent further infection and inflammation. After successful endodontic treatment, the tooth continues to perform normally.

I'm worried about x-rays. Should I be?

     No. While x-rays will be necessary during your endodontics treatment, we use an advanced non-film computerized system, called digital radiography, that produces radiation levels up to 90 percent lower than those of already low dose conventional dental x-ray machinery. These digital images can be optimized, archived, printed and sent to your general dentist via e-mail or letter.

More about dental x-rays

     The recent study by lead author Elizabeth B Claus MD, PhD connecting the tumor known as meningioma (located in the lining tissue of the brain) to radiation exposure from dental x-rays has given patients another reason to be wary of dental visits. Although the study from researchers at the School of Public Health at Yale University (as published online in the journal Cancer) was conducted by survey (an inaccurate scientific method of analyzing data), the results are still an important reminder that excessive exposure to x-rays and radiation can cause damage. This study was based on a survey asking people to remember what kind of dental x-rays they had 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago. But how does today’s dental x-ray affect the human body?

     Radiation from modern dental x-rays is drastically lower when compared to those x-rays from 40+ years ago, which is when many of the survey respondents were visiting dental offices. Dentists have been at the forefront for years to minimize radiation exposure. New x-ray advancements continue to reduce the amount of radiation doses.

     In terms of traditional radiation measurements- REM (Roentgen Equivalent Man)- a modern single dental x-ray exposes a patient to about 3 millirem, which is the same exposure received during a cross-country flight. In other words, it is minimal. Dental check up x-rays (four bite-wings) have 79 times less radiation than a year of normal background radiation. Dr Lloyd Marcum uses the latest digital imaging, which even further reduces the exposure, up to 10 times further reduction as digital x-rays have much less radiation exposure.

     Medical x-rays of all types are vital to providing proper healthcare diagnoses. Dental x-rays are a vital tool in diagnosing dental disease. Without dental x-rays, doctors would often be unable to detect impacted wisdom teeth, bone problems, oral cancer, infection, cavities between teeth, bone loss from gum disease, dental abscess or the need for root canals. An x-ray also allows us to determine if there is enough bone for the placement of dental implants. These are just some of the many reasons why dentists rely on dental x-rays. Doing dentistry without x-rays is like driving a car on a very dark night with no headlights. It can be done, but we wouldn’t recommend it.

     Dr Marcum advises patients to engage their dentists about x-ray use instead of practicing avoidance. Dental x-rays are very safe and extremely important to you and your dentist and should not be avoided based on unfounded fears about radiation exposure. We have the highest concern for your overall health. We will not put your health at risk. We use lead-lined vests as well as thyroid collars that offer even more protection. Dental x-rays are reported to be the lowest dose radiation of any health care technology today, and discussing the recommendation for diagnostic radiographs with your dentist is a good idea. In spite of these low radiation levels, Dr Marcum is very concerned about minimizing the amount of radiation a patient receives at the dental office. That is why we will take only the x-rays absolutely necessary to diagnose and complete your root canal therapy or other procedure.

     Caution-not fear-and a good dialogue with one’s dentist is the recommended treatment plan for all patients. Our digital x-ray units emit the lowest possible radiation. Dr Lloyd Marcum will always be commited to staying up-to-date on the best treatments for our patients and staying current on the medical literature to better serve out patients. 

What happens after treatment?

     When your root canal therapy has been completed, a record of your treatment will be sent to your restorative dentist. You should contact their office for a follow-up restoration within a few weeks of completion. Your restorative dentist will decide on what type of restoration is necessary to protect your tooth. Some patients may experience mild to moderate discomfort following routine endodontic treatment or microsurgery. Should this occur,a doctor is available 24 hours a day, each day to address your needs.