Dentistry
Cosmetic
Product Reviews
Updated on October 3, 2022

How Long Does a Root Canal Take?

NewMouth is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links. Advertising Disclosure.

What is a Root Canal?

Root canals are common endodontic treatments, with dentists performing around 15 million procedures each year.1

A root canal relieves pain and restores dental health by treating an infection in the soft center of a tooth. This soft tissue is called pulp. It contains nerves, connective tissues, and blood vessels.

Your dentist may recommend a root canal if the pulp is injured, inflamed, or infected. There are several reasons why this might happen:

  • Deep decay
  • A crack or chip in the tooth
  • Dental trauma

Certain symptoms suggest you may need root canal therapy, including:

  • Constant, pulsing toothache
  • Spontaneous toothache (continuous or intermittent)
  • Pain while chewing or biting
  • Lingering sensitivity to hot or cold
  • Abscesses on the gums
  • Swollen gums
  • Facial swelling
  • Darkening of the gums
  • Damaged teeth

Sometimes teeth appear normal, and there are no visible signs of a problem. The top, visible part of the tooth called the crown might appear perfectly intact even if the pulp is dead. Therefore, your dentist may examine the tooth and take X-rays to confirm the diagnosis.

According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists, an untreated necrotic or dead tooth can lead to a dental abscess. If not treated accordingly, it can lead to hospitalization and, in some cases, death. 

They may then recommend a root canal because removing the unhealthy pulp is the best way to save the tooth and relieve pain. Without treatment, the tooth will become more painful, and you could develop an abscess.2

Diagnostic Tests to Determine if a Root Canal is Needed 

Root canal tests are necessary in order to determine which tooth is causing pain. Some common tests include:

  • Cold test
  • Electric pulp test (EPT)
  • Periodontal probing
  • Percussion or “tapping”
  • Palpation or “touching”
  • Mobility test
  • Bite test
  • X-rays at various angles

Root Canal Procedure: What to Expect

Root canals are performed under local anesthetic. You can generally return to school or work directly after the procedure. 

Here are the steps:3 

  1. Receiving anesthetic — The dentist or endodontist injects local anesthetic into the gum near the affected tooth using a tiny needle. You’ll be awake for the root canal but unable to feel any pain.
  2. Placing a dental dam — This latex or nitrile square sheet of material acts as a barrier to ensure no new bacteria or saliva enter the pulp of the tooth being treated.
  3. Removing the pulp — The dentist uses a highspeed handpiece drill to create a small access hole in the top of the tooth to expose the infected or damaged pulp. They then use a series of files to remove the pulp. Antiseptic solutions are used throughout the procedure as the solutions sterilize the pulp chamber and canals.
  4. Placing antibiotics — The dentist may apply a topical antibiotic to the area to kill any remaining bacteria and prevent reinfection. If the tooth is very infected, or causes swelling, the dentist will likely complete the procedure in multiple appointments.
  5. Filling the canals — Once the tooth is clean and disinfected, the dentist fills and seals it with a special flexible material called gutta-percha.
  6. Sealing the tooth — The dentist seals the tooth with a dental filling to prevent bacteria from reentering.
  7. Placing the final restoration — You may require a dental crown to protect the treated tooth. It often takes 2 to 3 weeks to fabricate the crown. However, the dentist might prepare the tooth for a crown during your initial appointment. 

Following the root canal procedure, your mouth may feel sore after the anesthetic wears off. You can use over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil), to relieve pain. Contact your dentist if the pain is extreme or doesn’t ease after a few days.

You can usually resume your normal activities straight away, but it’s best to avoid eating until the numbness has subsided. Your tooth might feel slightly strange after the procedure, but this is normal.

You’ll usually have a check-up with your dentist a few days after the procedure. They’ll check on the tooth to ensure the infection is gone.

How Long Does a Root Canal Take?

A simple root canal procedure takes about 60 minutes to complete. If you have a root canal on a molar with several roots, it can take more than an hour. 

When is More Than One Appointment Necessary?

Dentists can sometimes perform a root canal in one appointment, although this can increase the risk of complications.5

Multiple visits are required if there is an extensive infection that requires time to clear. In this case, the dentist first cleans the infection and then places a disinfectant medication in the canal. The medication has time to reduce bacterial numbers between visits, reducing the chances of persistent inflammation and infection.

Amazon Black Friday Deals

The best time to buy new water flossers, electric toothbrushes, and tons of other dental products is now.

Root Canal Recovery Timeline  

Everyone heals from a root canal at different rates. Some people have discomfort for a week or more, while others may only have minor soreness for a day or two.

Here is what a typical root canal recovery timeline is like:

  • Day of procedure — You may experience some discomfort after the procedure as the anesthetic wears off. But, over-the-counter medications should reduce the pain.                                                                                
  • Days 1 to 2 — You may still have some mild pain and tenderness in the area. But, this should improve gradually.
  • Days 3 to 5 — By now, you should have little to no discomfort and be able to eat and chew with no noticeable problems.
  • Days 6 to 10 — Any tenderness and discomfort should have resolved roughly 10 days after the procedure.

If you’re still experiencing significant pain after this time, contact your dentist.

Aftercare Tips for Proper Healing 

Follow these aftercare tips to promote proper healing and reduce the risk of complications:

  • Avoid eating until the numbness has worn off completely. This is to avoid biting your tongue, cheek, or lips while they’re numb.
  • Don’t drink alcohol for at least 24 hours after the procedure, as it can increase bleeding and swelling.
  • Don’t chew on hard foods on the root canal treated tooth until you receive the final restoration or crown.  
  • Brush and floss your teeth as usual but be careful not to irritate the gums of the treated tooth.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication as needed.
  • Contact your dentist if you develop a fever or the pain worsens.

If you practice good oral hygiene and care for your teeth properly, your restored tooth could last a lifetime.6

How Much Does a Root Canal Cost?

According to the American Dental Association 2020 Survey of Dental Fees amongst general dentists:

  • A root canal for an anterior tooth (front tooth) may vary from $600 to $1,100
  • A root canal for a premolar tooth may vary from $700 to $1,250
  • A root canal for a molar tooth may vary from $870 to $1,470  

The prices can vary due to the location of the dental practice and the individual dentists fees. 

Summary 

A root canal is a common dental procedure used to treat an infected tooth. During the procedure, the dentist removes the infection and cleans the inside of the tooth. The final restoration is usually a crown.  

Although you may experience mild discomfort and tenderness for a few days after the procedure, this should resolve within a few weeks.

7 Sources Cited
Last updated on October 3, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1.   Root canal safety.” The American Association of Endodontists. 2019.
  2.   Sanders, J., et al. “Dental Abscess.”StatPearls. 2022.
  3.   Root canal explained.” The American Association of Endodontists.
  4.   Root canal.” The Cleveland Clinic. 2021.
  5.   Schwendicke, F., et al. “Single-visit or multiple-visit root canal treatment: systematic review, meta-analysis, and trial sequential analysis.” 2017.
  6.   Root canal treatment.” Mayo Clinic. 2021.
  7. “Dental Fees: Results from the 2020 Survey of Dental Fees.” American Dental Association 2020. 
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram