How Long Does A Root Canal Take?

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How long does a root canal take, all things considered?

The mere thought of drilling holes in your natural tooth to remove dental pulp which includes the tooth’s nerve, blood vessels, and soft tissue can be quite dreadful. However, you will be glad to know that root canals are a pretty standard endodontic treatment; it’s not as bad as you would imagine.

As a matter of fact, it is not the dental procedure that you should be scared of, but the tooth pain from infection due to extensive decay that you should be worried about. This is what root canal therapy is for – to completely eliminate the pain and preserve the integrity of the infected tooth and get your mouth back to normal as soon as possible.

How long the root canal procedure really takes

A simple root canal procedure takes 30 minutes to an hour. More complex cases could take 90 minutes or a little longer.

The time you need to be in the dentist’s chair depends on a lot of factors, including the severity of the infection, the tooth that needs the procedure, the tooth root, and other related oral health conditions.

But before your imagination wander there is one thing you need to know – root canals shouldn’t hurt.

Root canal: the basics

To better understand the duration of root canal treatments, you need to understand what actually happens during root canal treatment.

The term “root canal” comes from the cleaning and removal of infected pulp inside the tooth’s canal. Inside your tooth, underneath the white enamel and the hard layer (dentin), is the soft tissue called the pulp. The pulp contains the nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues, which are all connected to the gums and bones. Each root has a root canal, some have more than one.

When a tooth is chipped or cracked or has a deep cavity, bacteria can seep through the pulp. This leads to root canal infections. Dental trauma can also cause damage and inflammation to the pulp. If left unchecked, bacteria along with the decaying materials of the tooth can cause serious and painful infection which results in pulp death, bone loss, or even tooth loss. Symptoms of this include:

  • Persistent tooth pain (pain that comes and goes)
  • Tooth sensitivity (hot and cold food and beverages)
  • Swelling around the face and neck area
  • Swelling of the gums
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Pain when chewing or touching the tooth
  • Chips and cracks on the tooth
  • The root canal procedure: The short version

A root canal is an endodontic procedure that involves the removal of the infected pulp within the tooth, disinfection of the insides, filling (temporary filling or permanent filling), and sealing of the pulp chamber to preserve the structure of the tooth with a dental crown.

Basically, a root canal procedure is largely similar to a routine filling and can be completed within one or two appointments. As said earlier, a typical root canal appointment last around 60 minutes, depending on the specifics of the affected tooth. But since it involves the use of local anesthesia, a root canal is relatively painless. You can go back to smiling and eating with ease in no time!

Why do you need a root canal?

Without this procedure, the damage and infection in a severely infected tooth can spread along the gum line and affect other teeth. The teeth could turn black or yellow and the dental infection could turn serious, which could spread to other areas of the body through the blood.

Why save the natural tooth structure?

A fully developed tooth can survive even without the pulp since the tooth continues to get nourishments from the tissues that surround it. Advantages of root canal include:

• For natural appearance

• Normal biting force

• Normal sensation for food and beverages

• Efficient chewing

• Helps protect other teeth from excessive wear and tear or strain

How long does a root canal take? Understanding the procedure

As said earlier, a simple root canal procedure takes 30 to 90 minutes. But again, that doesn’t mean 60 to 90 minutes of pain.

There is tons of misinformation surrounding this dental procedure, but when performed properly, a root canal can get rid of pain and save your tooth.

The treatment is usually performed by a licensed dentist and can be completed by one or two visits to the clinic, depending on the type of tooth (different types of teeth have a different number of roots) and the work that needs to be performed (how bad the infection is).

  • For canines and incisors – 45 to 60 minutes
  • Premolars ( teeth between your anterior teeth and molars) – 60 minutes
  • Molars– 90 minutes

If the tooth requires a dental crown, this means the procedure could take longer (up to 60 minutes). Often, this will require another appointment to give the tooth enough time to fully heal before the crown is permanently on it.

Root canal for canines and incisors

The teeth in front of your mouth are called the canines and the incisors. These teeth have a single root, making them easy and quick to fill for a root canal. A typical root canal procedure for these teeth will require around 60 minutes. Again, a tooth with a severe infection could require longer.

Root canal for premolars

The premolars are the teeth behind the front teeth and before the molars. These teeth typically have two roots. Root canals for these teeth could take an hour or more, depending on the anatomy and the severity of the infection in the pulp.

Root canals for molars

Located at the back of your mouth, the molars are the most time-consuming teeth since they are harder to reach and have up to four canals. Moreover, teeth with severe infection require a more thorough cleaning and filling, which could typically take 90 minutes or more.

Why do some root canals take two visits?

As said earlier, the deciding factors for the duration of the procedure are the severity of the infection and the tooth itself. Thus, your dentist can decide whether to split the procedure into two sessions or finish it all off in one go.

For a procedure that requires two visits, the first appointment will focus on the removal of the infected pulp. This requires drilling and opening the tooth further to get access to the infected tissues. This is particularly common for severe cases and hard-to-access areas. After removing all of the pulp, the dentist will then apply a temporary antibacterial medication to the affected tooth, as well as a temporary sealant which could last until your next appointment.

For the second appointment, the cleaning of the treated tooth will continue. Next, the dentist will then apply a permanent sealant on the inside of the tooth to protect it from bacteria and other outside materials. Then, a filling will be placed to fill the opening. In some cases, a crown may be placed to protect the tooth and for aesthetic purposes.

You may have to wait for 1 to 2 weeks to have a crown placed after your first root canal appointment. During this time, you should only consume softer food and avoid brushing the treated tooth thoroughly. Also, you should rinse your mouth with lukewarm water during this time so as not to harm the unprotected tooth.

The Bottom Line

The term root canal sounds scarier than the actual procedure. However, there is nothing to worry about when getting a root canal. While root canal procedure is considered serious, it shouldn’t hurt. There may be some discomfort during the process from drilling down the tooth to thoroughly cleaning, and filling the cavity, but that’s pretty much it.

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.