How Long Does A Root Canal Take?

Dental xrya being examined by the dentists and patient on a screen

A root canal treatment will take up to two or three appointments depending on the case.

Root canal treatments involve the removal of infected or dead tissue from within the problem tooth. If an infection is left untreated, it will damage your tooth and could even lead to more serious complications that could have been avoided, by spreading to other areas of the mouth. It’s important to take care of an infected tooth as quickly as possible – this way, you can save a tooth that would otherwise require extraction.

Why do I need a number of appointments?

On your first appointment, your dentist will remove any infected pulp in the tooth canal and apply an antibiotic solution to kill off any bacteria. If you had been experiencing discomfort with your tooth before your visit, you might start to feel some relief from that now, as the infection has been removed.

On your next visit, your dentist will clean the tooth canal and sterilize it thoroughly to eliminate all traces of the infection. This is completed on the second appointment because the time in between the visits is needed to ensure the infection is completely eradicated.

Once the canal is clean and infection-free, the dentists will fill up the root canal with a sterile compound in order to ensure no more infections can occur due to bacteria in future. This will be quite similar in nature to a filling, but inside your tooth. This could happen on your second visit, but your dentist could decide to monitor the tooth further and fill it at a third appointment instead.

How much time will I be in the dental chair?

It’s impossible to give an exact answer to this question since each case is different and has to be treated specifically. However, as an estimate, we say the treatment procedure could take somewhere between 1.5 hours to 4 hours spread over two to three appointments to complete the process successfully.

Why do the times vary so much?

We have incisors, canines, premolars and molars in our mouths. These are the different types of teeth, and they each have a different number of roots and root formations. Incisors, canines and premolars typically have one root, but molars may have 3-4 roots and this will take more time to treat than a normal canine with just the one root canal.

When we talk about the roots of your teeth – imagine them more like bendy straws and not as straight pipes. It will take time to remove all signs of any bacteria or infection from the twists and turns inside the root canal. It is common for calcium to deposit in your tooth canals as you grow up and these are bone-like and can be very tough to break down. They will reduce the width of the root canals making it more difficult to navigate around these calcified parts to ensure the complete length of the root canal is completely uninfected and sterilized.

Some root canal treatments take just two appointments and sometimes just a single visit. However, most procedures take three appointments. Everyone is different and each tooth is different, so the best person to advise you on your treatment plan is your dentist!