How Long Does a Root Canal Take

How long does a root canal take depends on the tooth that is being treated, the time is not fixed and can be determined by factors like how severe your tooth is infected and the specific tooth. Root canal is a common dental procedure, in fact, more than 15 million root canal procedures are done in the United States every year (The American Association of Endodontists). Knowing how the procedure is done will help to better understand how long it will take.


Root canal or endodontic treatment is a procedure that is done to remove soft tissues that have become damaged or infected. These tissues or dental pulps are made of nerves, blood vessels and connective tissues, they feed on the root of the tooth and keep it healthy. The dental pulp can become damaged due to Infection, decay or damage to the tooth. When the pulp starts to deteriorate, a pus-filled pocket or abscess will start to form at the root of the tooth.

The best way to save the tooth, prevent reinfection and stop the pain is by having a root canal procedure. If the root canal is not done, the infection can spread to the gum-line and other teeth. A dentist can perform a root canal but it is best to be done by an endodontist who is a specialist in dental pulp and other procedures that involves treating the dental pulp and root.


Root canal is done in a dentist’s or endodontist’s office, the procedures are straightforward and standard regardless of who is performing it. The steps involve:

  1. A local anesthesia is applied on the tooth or teeth to numb the area. This is to prevent pain or discomfort.
  2. The doctor uses a sterilized equipment to drill a hole in the tooth. The insides of the tooth are carefully and slowly cleaned to remove infection and tissues that are damaged. 
  3. After the cleaning, the inside of the tooth is thoroughly rinsed to clear out the removed tissues and infections. If there are still infections present in the tooth, a medication is placed inside the tooth to kill the bacteria and germs.
  4. The doctor takes an x-ray of the tooth to check and confirm that the root is cleaned completely.
  5. If there are holes in the tooth, you may have to book another appointment for dental fillings or crowns to fill in the holes. 


A root canal takes a longer time than routine cleaning of the tooth because root canal involves using anesthesia, cleaning, rinsing, disinfecting and getting an x-ray. A simple root canal can take up to 30 minutes to an hour. Severe cases of root canal can take up to 90 minutes or more, a second appointment may be booked to fill in holes in the tooth. 

The length of time taken for a root canal is also determined by the tooth like:

1. Canine and Incisors

These teeth are in front of the mouth, they are used for cutting and tearing. These teeth are very easy to clean because they have just one root. This makes it easier for these teeth to be treated or filled. However, it can take up to 45 minutes to an hour to have a root canal on one of the tooth, this time does not include fillings or crown. 

2. Premolars

Premolars are close to the middle of the teeth and before the molars. These teeth may have one or two roots. A root canal in any of these teeth may take an hour or more to be done. 

3. Molars

Molars are the four teeth found at the back of the mouth. They are large and have up to four canals. This makes the time for cleaning them to be longer than other teeth. Removing the infected root alone can take up to an hour, then adding the cleaning and disinfecting them may cause the whole procedure 90 minutes or more.

Getting a dental crown on the same day make up to an hour but this does not usually happen. This is because the crown is customized to fit your teeth, also in some cases, the doctor may recommend that you wait for some time before getting a crown to look out for reinfection or further complications.


Root canal can take two visits or appointments if the tissue damage is severe and depending on the tooth as well. The first appointment will be for cleaning the tooth and removing the infected tissues. This is done thoroughly and may need lots of time to avoid reinfection. If there are still bacteria, the endodontist may apply temporary antibacterial medication in your tooth. The second appointment will be to clean the tooth again and disinfectant it as well. If there is need for a filling or crown, it is also done on the second appointment.


Root canal is not just for adults, it can be done in children as well. Tooth infection us not limited to any age, it can affect anyone and if not properly handled can damage the tooth involved. The procedure for a root canal in a child is same as an adult but the difference is that the sealant used in an adult’s teeth is permanent while that of a child is dissolvable. 

The sealant for a baby teeth is dissolvable so that when the tooth falls out for a permanent teeth to come out, the sealant can be absorbed by the body without any harm. Root canal for a child requires much care and precision. A simple root canal can take up to 30 to 60 minutes. If the case is severe, it can take approximately 90 minutes. 


There are some factors that will determine the length of time it will take for you to have a root canal. Some of these factors are:

  • How severe the infection is
  • The number of roots the affected tooth has
  • How your teeth are positioned in your mouth
  • If you need a dental filling or crown after the root canal
  • The anatomy or structure of the root
  • Your ability to sit well and open your mouth for hours.


A tooth with a crown can be infected with bacteria if it is not properly cleaned. This can cause the tooth to rot. The crown will not decay but the tooth inside will absorb the bacteria and destroy the dental pulp. To avoid further damage and infection, a root canal is done.

To perform a root canal on a tooth with crown, the dentist can remove the crown before drilling into the teeth to make an access hole or the dentist can drill the hole through the crown. If the crown is drilled, then it has to be replaced. If the damaged crown is used again, the tooth can become re-infected. 


A root canal involves drilling the teeth and other procedures so it is normal to feel pain but the pain should be mild and temporary. The root canal is done to relieve pain and not to worsen it. A root canal will cause mild pain that can last for few days. This pain will go away on its own if you maintain good oral hygiene. If the pain is severe or lasts longer than 3 days, you should see your dentist for follow-up checkup on your teeth. 


A root canal recovery time takes less than a week. The mild pain lasts for few days like 3 days, you can take pain relief medicines to help with the discomfort. If the healing period lasts more than a week, you can see a doctor.

There are some tips that can help with the recovery process like:

  • Eating softer foods till the pain has reduced. You can eat solid foods when your tooth has healed properly. 
  • Avoid chewing or biting with the treated tooth till the filling is in place.
  • You should avoid smoking after a root canal. Smoking can disrupt your recovery process and cause more damage to your teeth. 
  • Maintain good oral hygiene to help the teeth stay healthy.
  • Antibacterial mouthwash can be used to keep germs and bacteria away from your mouth.


Root canal is done to treat a damaged or infected teeth. It is done by a dentist or an endodontist. The length of time it will take to have a root canal done is determined by many factors like the tooth affected, how severe the infection is, your ability to sit well and open your mouth for long periods of time. It is normal to feel pain after the procedure but the pain should be mild and fade away after few days. If the pain continues or is severe, you should see your dentist immediately.

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