How Long Does a Root Canal Take?


Root canal treatments are prescribed by dentists to treat the soft tissue, called pulp, inside of a tooth when it becomes infected or inflamed. This pulp is found beneath both the enamel and dentine layers inside the root of the tooth.

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What to expect at a root canal appointment

Root canals are one of the most common dental procedures in America, and often allow patients to keep teeth that otherwise would need to be removed. During a root canal procedure, your dentist will use a local anesthesia to help with pain. They will then make a small opening in the tooth to properly access the inflamed pulp. The pulp is removed and the tooth is cleaned out and disinfected before being filled with a rubbery substance. Often, a filling or crown will be placed on the tooth to help protect and restore it.

Tooth pain is a common sign of infected soft tissue

If you are experiencing severe tooth pain, you may need to undergo a root canal procedure. Other signs that you may need a root canal include:

  • Pain while biting or eating
  • Sensitivity to heat or cold
  • Swollen or painful gums
  • Discolouration or darkening of gums

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your dentist right away. Waiting too long to treat infected tissue can allow the infection to spread, and may result in the tooth being extracted.

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Root canal procedures should not be painful

Anesthesia is used during all root canal procedures, so they should not be any more painful than other dental work. In fact, a root canal will stop the pain caused by the inflamed or infected tissue in the tooth and patients will experience relief after the treatment. Teeth that remain untreated for too long will become increasingly painful and may need to be extracted.

Typical timelines for root canal procedures

Most root canal treatments take anywhere from 30-60 minutes and can be completed in one visit. Patients undergoing this treatment should expect to spend at least 90 minutes at the dentist for the full procedure.

Some teeth take longer to treat than others

The length of a root canal often depends on the complexity of the procedure, which varies between teeth.

  • Molars typically take the longest to treat because they are at the back of the mouth and have up to four canals. A root canal on a molar can take up to 90 minutes or longer.
  • Premolars are the teeth behind the front teeth but before the molars. These teeth have two canals and can usually be treated in about an hour.
  • Incisors and canines are the teeth at the front of the mouth. They only have one canal and take about 45-60 minutes.

It is important to note that these treatment durations may increase based on the severity of the case. If a crown is needed to restore the tooth, patients should expect an additional hour in the chair.

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Root canals can take one or two appointments

Depending on the tooth, a second visit may be required to complete the root canal treatment. If a crown is needed, it will typically be placed at a second appointment about 1-2 weeks after the first treatment. Aside from a bit of discomfort, you should not experience pain after the infected tissue has been removed at your first appointment.

Recovery time for root canals is short

After a root canal, patients should expect a few days of mild discomfort. During this time, over the counter painkillers like Advil can be taken to manage the pain. Most patients are able to return to regular activities like work or school after about a day. While the area surrounding the tooth is healing, eat soft foods and take extra care when brushing. Your dentist will provide extensive aftercare instructions that should be carefully followed.

If a second appointment is required to place a permanent filling or crown, that appointment should be made right away. This will ensure that your tooth is properly restored.

After the treatment, contact your dentist if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Uneven bite
  • Severe pain or visible swelling
  • Return of symptoms experienced prior to treatment
  • Allergic reaction


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