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How Long Does a Root Canal Take?

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3D illustration of root canal treatment process.

Is your tooth aching? Are you finding it difficult to enjoy food that is too hot or too cold? Is your tooth discoloured? If so, you may have a damaged tooth root. If you have a damaged tooth root, your dentist may recommend getting a root canal procedure.

When some people think of a root canal, they can get overwhelmed. Root canals are often associated with thoughts of scary, invasive procedures. The truth is, a root canal procedure is common, and it’s no different than your average cavity filling. 

If you’re concerned that you may have a root canal, speak to your dentist during your next appointment.

What is a Root Canal? 

A root canal treatment is a dental procedure that gets rid of damage in your tooth’s root when it becomes infected or inflamed,

A root canal procedure becomes necessary when the soft tissue (also called the pulp) inside and surrounding the tooth becomes damaged. Unfortunately, if a root canal is needed, your dentist can not treat your tooth any other way. The only alternative to a root canal is to remove the entire tooth. 

If left untreated, the infection may spread to other teeth and even other parts of your body. As a result, your tooth may become discoloured, and you’re at a higher risk of experiencing heightened symptoms, like toothaches or gum problems.

Young man at dentist office explaining tooth pain to his doctor.

How do I Know if I Need a Root Canal? 

If you are suffering from a damaged tooth pulp, you may experience a range of different symptoms. Common signs and symptoms you need a root canal include:

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, book an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist can tell you if you need a root canal procedure and answer any questions.

What Causes a Tooth to Get Infected?

A root canal is often a result of an infected or damaged tooth that has not received treatment quickly enough. Common causes for root canal infections include:

  • Deep tooth decay due to an untreated cavity
  • Dental damage, like a chip or crack in the tooth, which can expose the inner layer of your tooth to harmful bacteria
  • Dental trauma that injures the pulp of the tooth
  • Repeated dental treatments to the same tooth

What’s to Expect During a Root Canal Procedure? 

Simply put, a root canal is a dental procedure where your dentist:

  • Removes the infection from within your tooth
  • Disinfects the inside of the tooth
  • Fills and seals the pulp chamber
  • Preserves the healthy tooth structure with a dental crown.

Here’s everything you can expect before, during and after a root canal procedure:

Before the Procedure

The most common issue patients have with preparing for a root canal is the fear of the procedure itself.  

A root canal is a major dental procedure. With any major dental procedure, you may experience some slight discomfort; however, it shouldn’t be painful. In fact, most of the pain associated with this procedure comes from the infection itself before getting treated.

An untreated infected tooth can result in excruciating pain and can result in the need for emergency dental care, which can be way more costly.

During the Procedure

During a typical root canal procedure, your dentist will:

  • Numb the entire area surrounding your tooth
  • Create a small opening in your tooth to access the pulp chamber
  • Remove the infection and pulp
  • Disinfect and rinse the inside of your infected tooth
  • Fill and seal your tooth with a high-quality resin to prevent further infection and keep your tooth healthy
  • Fit your tooth with a dental crown to preserve the tooth 

After the Procedure

After your procedure, you may experience slight pain or swelling as the numbing anesthetic wears off. Your dentist may give you a prescription for antibiotics or pain medication to help with any soreness, swelling or to clear up any remaining bacteria. 

To care for your tooth after a root canal, you should: 

  • Try to chew on the side of your mouth that didn’t receive treatment 
  • Floss and brush your teeth as normal 
  • Limit sweet and sticky foods and opt for softer foods

How Long Does a Root Canal Procedure Take?

The length of time a root canal procedure takes varies on two factors: how severe the infection is and the type of tooth that is infected.

Typically, a root canal procedure requires one visit and takes between 30 to 90 minutes on average. 

The type of tooth that can be infected and their respective treatment times are:

  • Molars are located in the back of your mouth and have up to four roots. A root canal treatment on the molars takes up to 90 minutes or longer. 
  • Premolars are in between your front teeth and molars and have one or two roots. A root canal treatment on the molars takes approximately 60 minutes. 
  • Canines and incisors only have one root. A root canal treatment on a canine or incisor tooth takes about 45 to 60 minutes. 

Avoiding a Root Canal

You can avoid needing a root canal by taking proper care of your teeth and gums. To do this, you should:

It’s essential to get regular check-ups and cleanings to ensure your mouth stays healthy and clean. During these routine visits, your dentist can also detect any small cavities, cracks, or other problems and repair them before they lead to more severe issues such as a root canal. 

The Takeaway

A root canal is a common dental procedure and is not something to be afraid of. If you are experiencing root canal symptoms, or have any questions or concerns about the process, contact us today! 

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