Endodontics is a specialized branch of dental health care that focuses on diagnosing and treating tooth pain. When a person experiences oral or facial pain, has injured a tooth or has teeth that are sensitive to hot or cold food and drinks, they may turn to an endodontist for help.
What does an endodontist do?
Endodontists are specialized dental professionals who examine, diagnose and treat patients who experience pain in one or more teeth. They are experts at finding the root cause of tooth pain. According to the American Association of Endodontists (AAE), less than 3% of all dentists are endodontists.
While a general dentist may perform one or two root canals in a typical week, the AAE reports that endodontists may perform upwards of 25 root canals each week. While general dentists spend time doing deep cleanings and placing fillings, an endodontist focuses solely on treating the interior of diseased teeth by performing root canal treatments and other procedures to save failing teeth.
Endodontists are trained in advanced dental techniques to treat and repair infected or diseased dental pulp, nerves, blood vessels, and roots inside of the tiny canals within a person’s teeth. They are also adept at treating injured or broken teeth, placing dental implants, and performing related cosmetic dental procedures. Endodontics use a combination of hands-on examination, X-ray imaging, 3D imaging, and other techniques to evaluate patients and determine a course of treatment.
An endodontist is also responsible for their patient’s pain management during and following treatment. They often administer numbing medications during treatment, prescribe pain medications to be taken post-procedure, and also oversee the healing of infected teeth which may require antibiotics.
How do you become an endodontist?
It takes approximately 10 to 11 years to become an endodontist — four years for undergraduate studies, four years of dental school, and two to three years of additional education and residency.
To start their career, endodontists must first earn a Bachelor’s degree and then pass the Dental Admission Test (DAT) before applying to dental school. Similar to medical school, acceptance into dental school is highly competitive.
While there is no specific degree required to enter dental school, many accredited schools do require that certain prerequisites in anatomy, biology, and chemistry be completed prior to acceptance.
In dental school, future endodontists will earn either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) degree. Endodontists must then pass the National Board Dental Examination and complete any other licensing requirements for dentists in the state where they wish to practice.
After dental school, endodontists will complete a residency program that lasts two to three years. According to the American Dental Association, there are 55 endodontist residency programs in the U.S. During residency, they undergo training to learn the skills and techniques necessary to specialize in endodontics — diagnosis of tooth disease, advanced root canal treatment, pain management techniques, and more.
Once their residency training is complete, an endodontist can become board-certified. They must pass a written examination, case history examination, and oral examination that tests their endodontic skills and proficiency before the board of the American Board of Endodontists.
While board certification is not required to practice endodontics, it can be helpful to those starting out to prove competency and showcase the mastery of advanced endodontic techniques.
What skills do you need to become an endodontist?
Endodontists will learn a myriad of complex technical skills necessary to perform root canals and other tooth-saving procedures during their residency. They should have a steady hand and stellar hand-eye coordination to perform root canals and other tooth-saving procedures with the required precision.
Specialized dentistry like endodontics requires focus, dedication, and patience to assess patients who are in pain and execute treatments properly. Additionally, endodontists may need to use skills like observation, critical analysis, problem solving, and creative thinking to find solutions to treat their patient’s dental pain.
What is the average salary for an endodontist?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes data for endodontists’ wages in their salary reporting for all dental specialties. According to the BLS, the average salary for dental specialists in 2020 was $183,300.
The salary range for an endodontist can vary greatly depending on how long they have been in practice and where they practice. The average salary for an endodontist in 2021 ranges from $192,884 to $282,571, according to reporting from Salary.com.
What is the typical career path for an endodontist?
Once an endodontist completes dental school and residency, there are several career paths they can follow. Most commonly, endodontists work as specialists within a traditional dental private practice or a nationwide dental service organization (DSO). In these two scenarios, an endodontist would work as an employee, treating patients who need their specialized services.
Endodontists can also choose to work as an independent contractor within a DSO or open their own specialty practice where they work off of patient referrals from general dentists, orthodontists, or other dental health professionals.
Some endodontists choose to follow a career path into education, training the next generation of dental specialists, or focusing on research that helps to further advance the field of endodontics.
Where to find endodontist jobs?
The BLS expects the dental industry as a whole to grow as the population ages, but the field is expected to remain competitive. The BLS reports that job prospects for specialized dental professionals like endodontists are good, especially for those who choose to work in underserved areas.
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