Easy root canal procedures can be done in 30 to 60 minutes, but in molars or more complicated areas, you can expect a root canal treatment to take up to 90 minutes. The tooth is drilled, the dead material removed, and the tooth is then filled with a natural substance called Gutta percha. It may require two visits to fully finish the process with a permanent crown.

How long does a root canal take?

Did you just get the news that you have to have a root canal?  Did it strike you with fear?  Are you worried about how long it will take?  Do you worry is a root canal painful? Let’s learn a little more about root canals, why they are needed, and what you should know about the procedure.

What is a root canal?

Technically speaking, the root canal itself is a part of your tooth.  It is where the blood vessels, connective tissue, and nerves lie, and it extends through the root of the tooth.  What we think of as a root canal is actually a root canal treatment, also known as an endodontic treatment.  It’s a very common procedure, with the number of root canal procedures being 15 million that take place every year.

Why do I need one?

You may need a root canal treatment if your tooth becomes infected but the main surrounding tooth structure is still in good shape, and your dentist wants to try to protect as much of the tooth as possible. Your dentist will drill into the tooth and remove the infected or dead tissue called dental pulp. It then gets replaced with a solid substance and the tooth is then capped so you can keep your natural tooth.

Ultimately, the infection will be drained out and then the tooth will be clean again, and hopefully the infection will not return.

This procedure can be necessary if you have had some dental issues in the past.  These include:

  1. Broken or cracked teeth or teeth that have significant cavities. These cracks or cavities go deep into the tooth and into the root canal area, leading to an infection.
  2. A tooth that has had a lot of dental work done in the past such as dental fillings
  3. Bad oral care or bad diet
  4. Grinding teeth (particularly molars) that stress the structure
  5. Teeth that have suffered trauma

How do you know if you need a root canal?

It will usually be pretty evident when you have reached the need for a root canal therapy. You might have some of the following symptoms:

  • The tooth goes dark
  • Hot and cold drinks cause significant pain, even when you aren’t actively drinking anything
  • Chewing foods causes pain, or you feel like there is pressure on your jaw in that area
  • You feel tooth pain even when no stimulus is present, and it may lead to a headache
  • The gum under that tooth is tender, or you see a growth or swelling around or under the tooth
  • You notice an abscess in the gums around the tooth that causes pain or bleeding

That said, not every patient feels anything.  Since the nerves may be damaged, they won’t notice something is wrong.

It is important to get this infection resolved so it does not cause damage to the jaw or get into the blood stream and cause infections elsewhere.

What does the process involve?

Usually a root canal treatment will take place in two visits at either a dentist or endodontist, but this often depends on what tooth needs. Many dentists can perform root canals so you don’t have to find another professional. Let’s find out how long does a root canal take.

  • You will go to the dentist who does an examination and takes X-rays or a CT scan of your jaw to see what is going on under the tooth. He or she may do a pulp vitality test.  That way your dentist can determine if you need a root canal treatment or if you have gum sensitivity issues caused by the gums receding or even a sinus problem.
  • On the day of the procedure, your dentist will give you an anesthetic to numb the area. This might be done by injection or by gas, if you have selected sedation dentistry.  He or she will also use a retractor to keep your lips away, or they might use a rubber or cotton roll. They do this to keep the area dry.
  • The dentist will drill a hole or series of holes into your tooth so that he or she can begin removing the infected and the dead tooth material, which might include the pulp and nerves. If it is necessary for you to come back, your dentist will apply a temporary cap on the area to keep food out of it.
  • If you are able to get everything done in one trip, after the area is all cleaned out with sterile water and maybe a medicated solution and the infection is gone, your dentist will use a dental material like the natural Gutta percha in the holes that were drilled, and then apply a dental crown to cap everything and restore the tooth. You should avoid chewing food on that side for a while to allow everything to settle down.
  • If you have to come back, your second visit will typically be a week later to let the infection clear. You will likely get an antibacterial treatment in the newly drilled holes in the meantime.

As for how long does root canal take, you can count on at least half an hour, and up to an hour and a half.  New techniques are available that help get the entire procedure done in one day, but it still depends on what tooth needs to be repaired. It also comes down to the shape of the tooth and how many roots it has, so you can expect molars to take longer than a canine tooth would.  Once your dentist is finished cleaning and shaping the tooth, you will be all set.

Please note – even though the infection is gone, the area may still be tender and sore.  Usually some over the counter pain relievers and gentle care of the gum and tooth will make the pain go away, but if the pain lingers, you need to call your dentist right away. The goal of a root canal treatment is to leave you pain free. You should still brush and floss but do so carefully.

Summing up

The root canal is inside the tooth where the dental pulp and the nerves are located. If you get an infection in there, you will need to get it resolved. When you get a root canal treatment, your dentist will assess your dental needs and if you do need to have the dental procedure, they will make sure that you are comfortable.  Between 30 and 90 minutes later, you will be done and the tooth will be capped either with a temporary filling to allow for the infection to go away, or your new permanent dental crown.  Your newly repaired tooth should now be well protected against further infections.

 

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Call us at (786) 540-1919 to schedule a free orthodontic exam.

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