Anatomy of the tooth
1) The endodontist examines and performs several tests to determine the pulpal status, x-ray the tooth, then administers local anesthesia. After the tooth is numb, the endodontist places a small protective sheet called a "dental dam" over the area to isolate the tooth and keep it clean and free of saliva during the procedure.
2) The endodontist makes an opening in the crown of the tooth to acess the pulp chamber and locates the root canals. Anterior teeth and lower bicuspids usually have one canal, upper bicuspids usually have two canals and the molars have 3-5 canals. Very small instruments called files are used seqentially to clean and shape the canal system to receive the canal filling.
3) After the space is cleaned and shaped, the endodontist fills the root canals with a biocompatible material, usually a rubber-like material called "gutta-percha." The gutta-percha is placed with an adhesive cement to ensure complete sealing of the root canals. In most cases, a temporary filling is placed to close the opening. The temporary filling will be removed by your dentist before the tooth is restored.
4) After the final visit with your endodontist, you must return to your dentist to have a crown or other restoration placed on the tooth to protect and restore it to full function. Failure to do so will result in fracture of the tooth and ultimate loss of the tooth.
5) If the tooth lacks sufficient structure to hold the restoration in place, your dentist or endodontist may place a post inside the tooth. Ask your endodontist for more details about the specific restoration planned for your tooth.