Endodontics, a dental specialty recognized by the American Dental Association, concentrates on treatment of the pulp (root canal) and surrounding tissue of the tooth. In addition to dental training, an endodontist receives two years of postgraduate training in performing root canal therapy and other procedures involving the pulp the soft inner tissue of the tooth.
A tooth consists of two main parts: the crown, which is visible in your mouth; and the root, which is anchored by surrounding bone and gum tissue. Inside each root are one or more channels called "root canals" that run the length of the root. Contained within the canal(s) are blood vessels, nerves, and soft tissue that are collectively called the pulp (often referred to as the "nerve").
The pulp can be irreversibly injured or infected after episodes of decay, fracture, trauma, or periodontal (gum) disease. The tooth then may become sensitive to hot or cold, or it could become tender. Sometimes the patient may experience spontaneous or radiating pain, and swelling. When this occurs, it is necessary to remove the diseased pulp tissue. This procedure is known as endodontic therapy. Since only the pulp is removed from the root canal, the root continues to function normally because its supporting tissues remain intact. It is important to remove the injured pulp because it may become infected and spread disease to the tissues surrounding the tooth.
Dr. Heitman, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Oklahoma before attending dental school at the University of Tennessee. After a year of general dental internship at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago, Dr. Heitman completed his post-graduate training in endodontics at Loyola University Dental School. He also received a Master of Science degree (M.S.) in Oral Biology. Following this, he served two years in the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Georgia, primarily teaching endodontics in the residency and internship programs.
Dr. Heitman then joined the faculty of the University of Washington Dental School in Seattle, Washington, as an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Endodontics. While at the University of Washington, he was also associated with a private endodontic practice. Dr. Heitman began his practice of endodontics in Beaufort and Hilton Head in 1979. He currently holds a teaching position at the College of Dental Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Dr. Heitman is a Fellow of the Pierre Fauchard Academy, an International Dental Honor Organization, is a member of the South Carolina and American Dental Associations, and has published numerous articles in professional journals.
Dr. Heitman and his wife, Dale, a native of Beaufort, live in Port Royal, South Carolina. They have three sons: Elliott, Danner and Porter.