how long to do a root canal

It’s a dreaded, but necessary procedure. Luckily I can assure you that thanks to modern medicine a root canal isn’t half as painful as it used to be years ago.

Read below so you can discuss options with your dentist and make informed decisions about the best way to go forward.

What is a Root Canal?

Firstly, know that this is a very beneficial procedure in cases where there is an extreme infection or structural damage to a tooth.

You may visit the doctor for a simple toothache or if you chipped your tooth. But, if the damage is so severe that exterior treatments won’t solve the problem the dentist will have to go inside and ensure the problem doesn’t continue. It’s a huge procedure but it’s better than losing your tooth, right?

What is the Procedure?

The entire procedure which can be handled in one or multiple visits will involve:

  • Removing the inside—the pulp—of the tooth
  • Cleaning this interior canal and removing all decayed parts
  • Filling up the gap to keep the tooth solid and seal it to prevent any further decay

This will be done with the application of an anesthetic.

An additional option is to crown the tooth. This isn’t absolutely necessary but it will make the tooth stronger so it will stay in good condition for longer.

How Many Appointments are Needed Before the Procedure?

Timelines regarding root canals are very much situation dependent and will be determined by:

  • The dentist’s preferred method of treatment.
  • How long you want your appointments to last.
  • How severe the situation is, as a more serious infection will prolong the treatment.

This also determines how many appointments you’ll make. Realistically, everything can happen during the first visit. Alternatively, one appointment can be used to prepare the tooth and a second visit may be needed in order to administer the medicine in the root canal and close the tooth.

How Long does it Take?

Based on the factors mentioned above you and the dentist will plan and set out a timeline.

Two Visit Approach

In the two visit approach, the tooth will be cleared of the pulp and cleaned during the first visit. If necessary the dentist will also place antibiotics inside to clear all infections. You will then return for another appointment about a week later to get the filling.

This method works best in these cases:

  • When infection is extreme and the dentist needs it to clear up first.
  • If you want short appointments. For individuals who have jaw problems, shorter appointments can prevent pain due to keeping their mouths open for too long.

These appointments can range from 30-60 minutes on average.

One Visit Approach

Alternatively, you can have everything done at once. Just be prepared to sit on the dental chair for a while. If all goes smoothly your appointment will be as short as +/-20 minutes, but it can also take up to +/-105 minutes. The latter applies to root canals done on teeth with multiple canals such as molars.

What Kind of Anesthetic is Used for Root Canal Treatment?

Is anesthetic the reason you dread getting a root canal? Don’t worry too much. Usually, only local anesthetic is used to numb the relevant area of the mouth. You won’t have to fight off drowsiness, but do get some pain medication. When feeling returns it may be sensitive for a while.

Note that modern anesthetic is even safe to use on pregnant women but remember to discuss this with your dentist if you’re expecting.

Is the Root Canal Procedure the Same Every Time?

As mentioned above each person’s experience will be different. This also proves that you shouldn’t take your best friend’s description as a reference for how it will be for you.

The tooth that needs root canal treatment will also have an effect on the overall experience of the procedure as well as the timeline. An upper wisdom tooth usually has three roots while others have one or two. Cleaning and filling a wisdom tooth will, therefore, be quite unique when compared to other front teeth.

As noted above timelines also depend on your unique situation. So don’t expect the worst.

Author: Peter Mayhew

Peter is a dental hygienist in the city of Chicago, IL. In his free time he likes to write blogs and product reviews on anything dental health related.