The word endodontics comes from the Greek “endo,” meaning “inside,” and the Greek “odont,” meaning “tooth.” Endodontic treatment is treating the inside of a tooth. A tooth is composed of an outer layer of white enamel, a secondary layer of hard material called dentin and an inner layer of soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. The pulp is the tissue that creates the surrounding hard tissue, such as dentin and enamel, as the tooth develops.
The pulp tissue goes from the visible crown in the mouth to the end of the roots. The pulp tissue connects to the tissue around the root. Even though the pulp tissue is vital for a tooth’s development, a fully mature tooth can survive without a pulp. If a pulp is removed, the surrounding tissue continues to nourish the tooth.
If a pulp of a tooth becomes inflamed or infected, endodontic treatment is necessary to save the tooth from extraction. There are many causes for inflamed or infected teeth: deep decay, repeated dental procedures, trauma or fractures. Untreated inflammation or infection will eventually cause pain or lead to an abscess.
A damaged pulp will often signal inflammation or infection. There can be pain, long-term sensitivity to heat or cold, discoloration of the tooth, swelling or tenderness in the gums.
To save the tooth from extraction, the endodontist removes inflamed or infected pulp tissue. The inside of the tooth is cleaned and shaped, and the root spaces are filled and sealed.