Frequently Asked Questions


What Is Endodontics?

Endodontics is a dental specialty that focuses on the treatment of dental pulp and the tissues surrounding the roots of your teeth. “Endo” is the Greek work for “inside” and “odont” is Greek for “tooth.” Endodontics, or root canal treatment, treats the soft pulp tissue inside your teeth. When you look at one of your teeth in the mirror, you are seeing the crown. The rest of the tooth is below the gum line and is called the root. The root of your tooth is protected by a hard substance called cementum, but the inside of the tooth is soft and contains pulp, blood vessels and nerves. Endodontics focuses on saving teeth through root canal treatment.


What Is An Endodontist?

An endodontist is a doctor of dental surgery who has advanced and specialized training. Less than 3 percent of all dentists become endodontists because of the additional training and rigorous examinations. Dr. Photopoulos is called a specialist because he has completed a four-year doctorate degree in dentistry as well as an additional three-years of masters training. Dr. Photopoulos’s additional training focused on diagnosing tooth pain, performing root canal therapy, microsurgery, treating traumatic tooth injury and other procedures related to the interior of the tooth


Why Choose An Endodontist?

Just like with other fields of medicine, there are dentists that specialize in certain types of dental treatment. Because Dr. Photopoulos focuses on root canal therapy, here at Santa Clara Endodontics we perform dozens of root canals every week, while regular dentists perform on average less than two. Because we’ve limited our practice solely to endodontic treatment, we are efficient and precise in our procedures. This leads to a better patient experience and quicker healing process.


When Should You See An Endodontist?

We know that there are very few people who enjoy going to biannual cleanings and checkups with their general dentist. The most common cause of toothaches are cavities and gum disease. A general dentist is well-suited to treating these issues. But when it comes to tooth pain, it is very important to take care of that immediately by seeing an endodontist. If you have any of the following symptoms, you should contact us immediately:

  • Tooth pain
  • Injury to a tooth
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold
  • Swelling around a tooth, gums, or your face
  • A cracked tooth
  • Signs of infection on your gum line
  • Changes in tooth color
  • Soft tissue changes and asymmetry of your face


Should You Be Worried About X-Rays?

Here at Santa Clara Endodontics, our highest concern is the long-term health of our patients. While X-rays are necessary to help diagnose and treat a patient, we’ve invested in an advanced non-film computerized system called digital radiography. This system produces radiation levels up to 90 percent lower than non-digital radiography.


Is There A Risk Of Infection?

You have no need to be concerned. Our office adheres to the highest standards of infection control given by the CDC, ADA, and OSHA. We eliminate any risk of infection with autoclave sterilization, single-use files and barrier techniques.


What Comes Next After Root Canal Treatment?

After your root canal therapy has been completed, we will send a record of your treatment to your restorative dentist. Make sure to contact their office within a few weeks of treatment for your follow-up restoration. They will decide on the best restoration to protect your tooth. In rare cases, patients may experience complications after a routine endodontic treatment or microsurgery. If a problem does arise, contact us right away.


Are There Any Alternatives To Root Canal Treatment?

The only alternative to root canal treatment for a tooth with diseased dental pulp is extraction. Root canal treatment and a new crown are generally far less expensive than replacing the tooth with an implant, partial denture, or bridge. And it’s always better to save a tooth than to remove one.


Is Root Canal Treatment Painful?

Root canal treatment has a reputation for being painful, but that reputation is based on patients’ experiences from decades ago, before modern techniques and anesthetics were available. Now, you should expect no more discomfort during your root canal therapy than at a routine filling appointment. In fact, root canal treatment will usually relieve the pain of the infected tooth.


How Does Santa Clara Endodontics Provide For Patient Comfort?

Dr. Photopoulos will ensure your comfort in a variety of ways, including oral conscious sedation for especially fearful patients, digital radiography to dramatically lower the amount of radiation exposure, electronic apex locators (which are especially useful for pregnant patients), and the surgical operating microscope (which increases the success rate of the procedure and makes it possible to treat difficult cases in a single appointment).


After Treatment, Do I Go Back To My General Dentist?

You do! After root canal therapy is complete, we place a temporary filling in the crown of your tooth. The tooth will continue to draw its nourishment from the surrounding tissues, but it needs to be permanently restored, which is a job for your general dentist. The type of restoration you receive will be determined by the location and the condition of the tooth. Make sure to see your general dentist promptly after treatment because the temporary filling will loosen over time.


How Long Will Root Canal Treatment Take?

In most cases, root canal treatment only takes one visit, but more complex cases can require additional appointments. Plan for each visit to take one to two hours. Due to the length of appointments, we request that patients with children make arrangements for the children to stay at home.


What Will Happen If I Don’t Get Root Canal Therapy For My Tooth?

If diseased or damaged pulp is not removed, the tooth and surrounding tissues may become inflamed and/or infected, which will eventually result in a painful abscess. Left untreated, the tooth will ultimately have to be removed.


Why Is Root Canal Therapy Better Than Extraction?

Keeping our natural teeth is always the best option. Experts agree that even the best artificial substitutes can’t quite match natural teeth in function or appearance. Additionally, extraction and replacement are usually much more expensive.


What Should I Expect During Root Canal Therapy?

Root canal therapy, typically performed in one or two visits, includes the following steps:

  • Administration of local anesthetic
  • A small opening is made in the crown of the tooth, through which small instruments can remove the diseased pulp from the pulp chamber and root canals.
  • The root canals are filled with a biocompatible material called gutta percha.
  • The opening is closed with a temporary filling, to be replaced by your general dentist with a permanent restoration.


What Will Happen After My Endodontic Treatment?

With the completion of the endodontic treatment, the root canal has been permanently sealed. However, the outer surface is only sealed with a temporary restoration, so a follow-up restoration still needs to be placed in order to protect your tooth against fracture and decay. Please call your restorative dentist for an appointment. We will send them a complete report of treatment.

We will conduct a follow-up examination to evaluate your progress, which will only take a few minutes. Please call to schedule your follow-up appointment in the month after your treatment.

Immediately after endodontic treatment, your tooth will be more vulnerable to fracture, so Dr. Photopoulos recommends that you avoid chewing on that side of your mouth until your restorative dentist has placed a core buildup and protective restoration (typically a crown). If your tooth’s strength is seriously compromised, your restorative dentist may place a post and core build-up inside the tooth. Your restorative dentist and endodontist will determine the right restoration to best protect your tooth.