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Endodontics is the dental specialty dealing with diseases of the dental pulp and its supporting structures. Although general practice dentists can perform endodontic procedures patients are often referred to an endodontist when the case is complicated or more difficult than usual.

To understand endodontic treatment it helps to know something about the anatomy of a tooth. Teeth have several layers. The outside layer a hard layer called the enamel. The enamel is supported by an inner layer called the dentin which has at its centre a soft tissue known as the pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue that are responsible for forming the surrounding dentin and enamel during tooth development. The pulp receives its nourishment supply from vessels which enter the end of the root. Although the pulp is important during development of the tooth, it is not necessary for function of the tooth. The tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it even after the pulp is removed.

Endodontic treatment is necessary when the pulp becomes inflamed or infected. The most common reasons for inflammation or infection are deep cavities (caries), repeated dental procedures, cracks or chips. Trauma can also cause inflammation and often shows up as discoloration of the tooth. If pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause pain or lead to an abscess.

Symptoms indicating the need for treatment include prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, discoloration of the tooth, swelling or tenderness of the tooth or adjacent gums. Sometimes there are no symptoms.