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Endodontics, from the Greek endo (inside) and odons (tooth), is a specialist sub-field of dentistry that deals with the tooth pulp and the tissues surrounding the root of a tooth. The pulp (containing nerves, arterioles and venules as well as lymphatic tissue and fibrous tissue) can become diseased or injured, and is often unable to repair itself; if it dies, endodontic treatment is required.

Endodontists are dentists who have specialized in this field; qualification as an endodontist typically requires an additional 2-3 years of training following dental school. Many endodontic residents do original research and earn a Master's degree as well as a speciality certificate. They specialize and limit their practice to root canal therapy and root canal surgery, and use their special training and experience in treating difficult cases that are referred to them by general dentists who opt not to perform these cases, such as teeth with narrow or blocked canals, or unusual anatomy. Endodontists may use advanced technology, such as operating microscopes, ultrasonics and digital imaging, to perform these special services, and often have great experience in successfully treating patients who present in pain. Patients requiring root canal therapy are either referred by their general dentists to the endodontist or are self referred; the most common procedure done in endodontics is root-canal therapy. It is important to note that most general dentists are trained to address a variety of patients' endodontic needs, and thus most root canals performed annually are performed by general dentists.

Other procedures practiced in endodontics include incision for drainage, internal tooth bleaching to fix teeth that have blackened because of infiltration of decayed soft tissue into the dentin in the teeth - most often seen in incisors that have been injured through a sudden impact, and periradicular surgery (apicoectomy); the more radical treatments generally are needed in cases of abscesses, root fractures, and problematic tooth anatomy, but may be indicated in treating teeth that have persistent root end pathosis following root canal treatment.

Dr Koos Marais practises in the east of Pretoria. His practice is limited to endodontics and orofacial pain.

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