A General Dentist’s Guide to Endodontic Referral Best Practices | Renovo Endodontic Studio

A General Dentist’s Guide to Endodontic Referral Best Practices


As a general dentist with a thriving dental practice, you want to provide your patients with the absolute best.  

That’s why you stay up to date with current dental trends and innovations. It’s why you take continuing education seriously. And it’s why you make sure you’re backed by a knowledgeable, well-trained team. 

Your drive for excellence is also the reason you take specialist referrals seriously. You want to help your patients get out of pain, achieve optimal oral health, and keep their teeth for a lifetime if possible. 

Unfortunately, when it’s time to refer your patients to Chicago endodontic professionals, pitfalls can arise at times. 

We want to help you navigate potential complications with the best referral practices. Read on to learn more about the referral process and how to ensure your patients are treated by top-rated endodontics providers in the Chicago area.  


Endodontic Referral Best Practices: Tips for General Dentists

At first, it might seem impossible to “screw up” a referral slip. They’re fairly straightforward:  

  • Referring doctor’s name 
  • Patient’s name 
  • Patient’s contact info 
  • Tooth or area of the mouth that needs addressing 
  • Patient’s symptoms 
  • Any notes from the general dentist regarding what they found during their examination 

Unfortunately, local endodontic experts in Chicago suburbs don’t always receive the information they need. To understand what we as endodontic professionals need from general dentists, let’s look at the role of a patient’s primary care dentist.  

Understanding the Referring Dentist’s Role 

We have the utmost respect for our referring dentists. Their job is a complex one. They take care of patients with decay, cracked teeth, dental implants, and even treat some orthodontic cases. 

There are times, though, when it’s in the patient’s best interests to refer their case out to an endodontic specialist, including:  

  • Severe caries – Sometimes, decay is so advanced that a filling isn’t sufficient. We can try to salvage as much of the natural tooth structure as possible with root canal treatment. The goal is to preserve the integrity of the tooth if possible.  
  • Abscessed tooth – When an infection forms in the tooth or around the roots, we can open the tooth, drain the infection, clean the canals, and fill them. It is vital to the patient’s health (in some cases, it’s a life-or-death situation) that we remove the infected pulp tissue as soon as possible. Getting a referral promptly can help save the patient’s tooth and their health. 
  • Unidentified pain – Try as you might, there are just some scenarios in which a general dentist can’t identify and diagnose a patient’s pain. This is no reflection on you as a provider. Instead, it is often a case of needing insight from a specialist. Top-rated endodontists in the Greater Chicago area have years of experience and specialty tools/technology that can help with the diagnostic process.  

The Importance of Establishing a Network of Reliable Endodontic Professionals 

As you well know, serving the needs of patients in a large city with many suburbs isn’t always easy. It seems that there often aren’t enough dentists to go around.  

As Chicago endodontic professionals, we understand this frustration. That’s one reason why we are continually building our endodontic team. The more providers we have, the more patients we can help. 

General dentists can also save themselves and their patients frustration by creating a network of top-rated endodontic specialists. For instance, if one endodontic practice is completely booked, you can easily and confidently turn to another endodontic professional in your network. Additionally, choosing an endodontic practice with several endodontists on their team (like Renovo Endodontic Studio) can save a lot of time and frustration as well.  

Tips for Building Good Relationships with Top-Rated Endodontists  

Something our team endeavors to do regularly is build and strengthen our relationships with general dentists in Chicago. The stronger our collaboration, the better it is for our patients and their oral health. 

In addition to scheduling regular meet-ups with endodontic providers in the Chicago area, you can establish a good relationship by: 

  • Effective communication 
  • Seeking and supplying honest feedback 
  • Referring often 
  • Make sure your team knows who you refer patients to and why 
  • Inform the specialists of any personal or patient complaints as soon as possible  

It’s important for endodontic specialists and referring dentists to remember we’re on the same team and that we can reinforce each other’s values and goals for patient care.  

Referral Best Practices: The Referral Process 

Now, let’s look at the referral process and how those with a general dental practice can ensure a seamless referral experience for all involved.  

Step-by-Step Referral Process for General Dentists 

The first step is to evaluate the need for a referral. We’ll discuss this more in detail later.  

Step One: 

Ideally, a general dentist will create a comprehensive treatment plan for the patient and share it with the endodontist. A collection of initial data from the general dentist can help the endodontist perform their work in a way that fits the patient’s needs and the referring dentist’s goals. It can also help prevent misdiagnosis and mistreatment.  

When sending x-rays to a specialist, we prefer periapical x-rays because we can see the entire tooth. However, make sure to send PAs that show the root tip.  

Step Two: 

Next, make the referral promptly. Efficient referrals reduce the risk of complications, including pain, swelling, and the possibility of an extraction.  

Step Three: 

Communicate clearly with your patient. Explain why they need a referral to an endodontic specialist. Also explain what to expect post-operatively, such as what type of restoration they’ll need and why. 

Then, while the patient is still in the office:  

  • Help them schedule an appointment with the specialist 
  • Supply up-to-date educational endodontic literature if you have it 
  • Provide a map to the endodontist’s office 
  • Provide the endodontist’s contact information 
  • Give the patient preoperative instructions if necessary 

Important Note: Please avoid telling patients that a certain procedure is easy or that an endodontic procedure will take a certain length of time. Each case is different and we don’t want patients to have unrealistic expectations 

Step Four: 

Discuss your patient’s diagnosis with the endodontist. Tell them exactly what you told the patient about the diagnosis and the reason for referral. Discuss restorative information including:  

  • The patient’s treatment plan 
  • Whether a post and core are needed 
  • How much post space you need 
  • Whether you want us to place a buildup or not 

If it’s not possible to meet in person or over the phone, you can prepare a letter or email with these details. Or if they fit, you can add them to the referral form.  

In addition to sharing diagnostic notes, please inform us of any warnings regarding patient behavior or severe medical issues.  

Step Five: 

Schedule a restorative appointment within four weeks of endodontic treatment. We want to avoid a lengthy delay between endodontic treatment and the final restoration to prevent microleakage, nonhealing, or breakdown of tooth structure.  

Step Six: 

Once endodontic treatment is completed, the endodontist will send you a report which will include pre- and post-operative x-rays. Our team will also provide a prognosis and information about other treatment needs (such as a root-end resection, for example).  

Clarifying Your Expectations 

Honest communication is vital for good working relationships. We want to hear from you, so please tell us exactly what you expect from us and what you hope the outcome will be for your patient. It’s better for our patients when we and our referral partners are on the same page. 

Utilizing Technology for an Efficient Referral Process 

Long gone are the days when everything was done via snail mail. Now, dental technology allows us to share:  

  • Digital x-rays 
  • Treatment plans 
  • Diagnostic notes 

We recommend using such technology whenever possible. For example, using digital radiographs allows us to enlarge the image so we can better evaluate the tooth in question. Additionally, sharing documentation leaves a digital trail, so everyone knows what was shared and when, and it’s easier for the referring dentist, endodontist, and their respective teams to access.  

Potential Complications in the Referral Process (and Solutions!) 

What if you face a complication while referring your patients for Chicagoland endodontic services? Here are a few tips that can help – but please remember that the team at Renovo Endodontic Studio is always ready to help. Therefore, if you encounter any difficulties, please contact us for additional solutions.  

Common Issues Faced by Referring General Dentists 

Here are some issues faced by dentists and how we can help. 

Insurance Challenges and Preauthorization 

Dental insurance companies can place limits on what type of treatment a dentist can perform – at least in terms of what they’re willing to pay.  

Some insurance companies have referral requirements. For instance, they often require a referral to a specialist for confirmation of a diagnosis before paying for treatment. Failure to do this can result in the patient having to pay the entire bill. 

Another issue is preauthorization. Many insurance companies want to confirm root canal therapy or endodontic surgery is necessary before they’ll pay. Therefore, some may require preauthorization with x-ray and documentation before they’ll even pay for a visit to the endodontist.  

If you have any issues with a patient’s dental insurance, please contact us. We can help navigate through any confusion.  

Patient Concerns and Transition of Care 

The term “root canal” can send even the bravest patients running for the exit. But you have the power to help ease their anxiety, and clear communication can help.  

Make the patient aware of your close collaboration and good relationship with the endodontists in your network. Explain why you trust them and why you choose to put your patients in their care. Such information can ease your patient’s mind because they know they’re in good hands.  

The Importance of Case Selection: Knowing When to Treat and When to Refer  

Let us take a moment to look at the intricacies of dental diagnostics so you can better assess which cases to treat and which to refer to an endodontist. Doing so is for the benefit of your dental practice and every patient within it.  

When to Treat Patients and When to Refer for Chicagoland Endodontic Services  

Here are some tips to assess your cases and make the most informed decisions when it comes to endodontic referrals. 

Use the Endodontic Case Difficulty Assessment Form 

The American Association of Endodontists offers a free assessment form to help you determine whether a case is:  

  • Low difficulty 
  • Moderate difficulty 
  • High difficulty  

The form takes into consideration things like:  

  • Crown alterations 
  • Curved roots 
  • Reduced canal sizes 
  • Canal calcification 
  • Periodontal disease 
  • Teeth with deviations from normal positions 
  • A tooth with previous endodontic treatment 

It also helps determine case difficulty based on:  

  • The patient’s medical health 
  • Whether they’ve experienced any type of trauma (dental or otherwise) 
  • Whether the patient has experienced issues with anesthesia 
  • If they have a gag reflex 
  • If they have an issue that restricts mouth opening (such as TMJ disorder) 

Determining Whether to Treat or Refer 

Some general dentists will refer any patient who falls into the category of moderate-difficulty and beyond. Others will only refer high-difficulty patients. 

The problem with the latter is that even moderately difficult cases can result in complications, such as perforated roots, broken files, and patient discomfort.  

It’s important to set realistic goals and make decisions based on the best interests of the patient. If you have any qualms about treating moderately difficult cases, it isn’t a reflection of your abilities. Referring your patient to an endodontic specialist in the Greater Chicago area is a wise decision.   

General Dentists Can Experience a Seamless Referral Process 

At Renovo Endodontic Studio, we believe in the power of collaboration. We form a team with our patients and their referring general dentists. And we want our team to succeed because it means better outcomes for our patients. 

Understanding the referral process and what local endodontic experts in Chicago suburbs need from you can help you avoid referral pitfalls. 

We know, though, that unexpected difficulties can arise from time to time, which is why we want to extend a helping hand. If you have any questions or are facing a referral challenge, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

Do you have questions about referral best practices? We’re happy to help! Contact our team to discuss referral issues, schedule a meet-up, or answer any questions you may have.  

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