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Dentistry has a number of specialties and is divided into a number of fields. One of these is in the field of root canal treatment. Does that mean that only specialists can perform root canal treatment? Is a specialist even needed? Read on.

Dentistry is considered a separate branch of medicine but even within that, there are a number of different specialties. There are dentists that specialize in root canal treatment, in implant dentistry, in fabricating dentures, in placing braces, in the treatment of children, in oral radiology and so on.

As a layman, it can be very difficult to know which dentist does what. Confusing the matter further is the fact that general dentists can legally perform almost all the dental procedures themselves as well. Unlike in medicine, it is not very clear cut the kind of dentist you need to go to for a particular kind of treatment.

Can all dentists perform root canal treatment?

Training in performing root canal treatment is considered to be basic dentistry and so every single dentist that passes out from a half decent reputable dental school should be able to perform root canal treatment.

So yes, technically every single dentist should be able to provide root canal treatment [1].

It must be remembered here that a basic level of root canal treatment training is passed on at the undergraduate level. This training along with real-world experience may be enough to perform root canal treatment in straight forward cases but the more complex ones can be a challenge [2].

Is it better to go to a specialist for root canal treatment?

Going to a specialist definitely has its advantages. A dentist who specializes in root canal treatment is called an endodontist. These dentists undergo rigorous training in the theory and practice of root canal treatment, its challenges, and latest advances for three years [3].

The chance of a specialist navigating tricky situations better and just being able to treat any sort of case which they see is better. Of course, a general dentist should be able to recognize any situations which are outside their comfort level and be able to refer the patient to a root canal specialist [4].

In general, teeth requiring re-root canal treatment, back teeth, or cracked teeth are better treated by root canal specialists.

Is a root canal treatment performed by a specialist any different from a general dentist?

Technically speaking, the root canal procedure remains the same irrespective of the dentist that is performing the treatment. However, there are many pitfalls within the same procedure and the endodontist is just better trained to overcome those challenges.

A root canal specialist is more likely to be using state of the art treatment protocols after having received extensive training on it [5]. The use of motorized instruments which reduce the time spent on the chair, the use of magnification loupes or microscopes to be able to better visualize the root canals [6], and just carrying out every single part of the treatment protocol to a higher standard can be expected at an endodontist [7].

To be clear, getting root canal treatment done at the hands of an endodontist is not a guarantee of success. Failures in root canal treatment can happen at the hands of highly trained and experienced specialists as well. That is just the nature of the treatment which makes it impossible for anyone to have a 100% success rate [8].

Should children requiring root canal treatment be treated by pedodontists or endodontists?

There is a branch of dentistry that deals with children and a separate on which deals with root canals. So what about a child that requires a root canal? Again, there is so much of overlap between dental specialties that both the specialties should be able to take care of the problem, however, this technically falls under the scope of a pedodontist.     

In the above case, the behavioral management of a child is more important than the actual root canal treatment training strange as it may sound [9].

How do I know what kind of dentist I need?

Patients cannot be expected to know the intricacies of the problems they have. They are going to be suffering from pain or other discomforts. The reason behind that is something for the dentist to diagnose. This is why it is recommended that patients go a trusted dentist of theirs and then follow his or her judgment in the matter.

It is in the interest of the dentist to provide you with the correct diagnosis and guidance even it means referring you to a specialist [10].


If you are in a new city or looking for a new dentist for any reason and have an idea of what you may require then looking for a specialist is a good idea. You are giving yourself the best chance of a successful outcome by being treated at the hands of an experienced dental surgeon, especially one that has specialized in the treatment required.

For root canal treatment, the branch of dentistry that patients need to look for is endodontics.

If, however, you have a trusted general dentist or one of another specialty then still seeking their advice and guidance in the matter is advised.    

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