This is a great question and one that may have a little confusion surrounding it. The simple answer is this: Yes, of course you can go directly to a root canal specialist. There are some important things to understand about these situations, though. In certain circumstances, it is better to see your dentist first, and in others, you could go straight to the endodontist. We’ll explain in this article.
When Should You Go to Your Dentist First?
There are a couple of different circumstances in which you should check with your general dentist before calling a specialist. If any of these apply to you, you may want to start with your family or general dentist. (If you do not have a family or general dentist that you see regularly, let us urge you to find one. Waiting until you have an emergency is never a good plan.)
Some Insurance Carriers Require a Referral.
As in medicine, there are some dental insurance plans that require a general practitioner referral to a specialist before they will cover any specialist visit. We know it’s an additional step, but your insurance company wants to make sure that you need to see an endodontist before sending you to one.
You May Not Need a Root Canal.
There is a wide variety of toothache causes, and some of them do not require root canal treatment. A root canal is necessary to remove infected or dead nerve tissue within a tooth. You could have a toothache that is due to inflammation around the tooth instead of within. In fact, it is possible to have a toothache from a nerve problem that is located in the neck or jaw joint.
If you are not 100% certain that you need a root canal, it is best to see your general dentist for a diagnostic appointment. If your dentist finds that you do have an infected or dead nerve within the offending tooth, he or she will refer you to the specialist.
You May Have a Dental Problem that a Root Canal Cannot Fix.
Another potential situation is a dental problem that is “too far gone” for a root canal. In some cases of severe toothache or dental infection, the tooth structure itself is incapable of supporting a long-term restoration. This happens when there is a large cavity that destroys most of the exposed tooth structure. It also occurs when a tooth crack extends deeply into the root.
Even though a root canal would eliminate the source of infection and alleviate pain, It only addresses the problem within the tooth. It does not repair deep cracks or rebuild tooth structure. Your general dentist and endodontist always work together to provide the solution that will give you the best long-term function on an infected tooth. When that is not possible, we have to turn to other treatment options.
When Should you Go Directly to the Endodontist?
In some cases, it is totally fine to begin at the endodontist. If any of these situations apply to you, make sure to check with your dental insurance carrier first to find out if they require a referral. If they do not, then you can call the endodontist directly and schedule a visit without going through your general dentist.
Your Dentist Referred You in the Past.
This actually happens quite a lot. The dentist sees something suspicious on an x-ray and refers you to see an endodontist. It may be a problem surrounding an existing root canal or a suspicious shadow indicating a dead nerve. Whatever the reason, if your dentist refers you to an endodontist, you should go even if you are not in any discomfort. If you do not, and you begin experiencing pain or swelling in this suspicious area, you can go directly the endodontist. No new visit with the general dentist to re-confirm the suspicions is necessary.
You Have Seen the Endodontist about the Same Tooth in the Past.
Some teeth have problems that require close monitoring in the event that they could need a root canal or a retreatment of an existing root canal at some point in the future. If you have been under the care of an endodontist for a particular tooth, you may choose to call the endodontist directly when you notice or suspect any changes on that tooth. Because the endodontist is the one monitoring the tooth and the one who would treat the tooth when necessary, it is appropriate to go straight to your endodontist.
You Have a Complicated Situation and Want an Endodontist’s Diagnostic Skills.
An endodontist is a skilled diagnostician. This is an important aspect of their role in providing the right treatment. No one wants a root canal when the source of pain is actually somewhere outside the tooth. The last thing an endodontist wants is to perform a root canal and have the patient continue to experience the same symptoms without relief.
For this reason, they are very careful in their thorough testing, imaging and diagnosis of the state of the nerve within the teeth. If you have a complex pain issue with one or more teeth, an endodontist can help uncover the true root of the problem.
More Questions about When to See the Endodontist?
Call Rockland Dental Specialists today to schedule a consultation with our endodontic specialists. Our front office team can advise you on whether to see the general dentist first after a brief phone interview, and our doctors can answer any question you have about a particular tooth or dental problem.