How long do root canal treatments take?


Root canal treatment, also known as endodontic therapy, involves removing infected pulp or tissue from your tooth, cleaning the entire root canal system and disinfecting it, and finally, filling it and sealing it to prevent future infection and damage. This technique saves your tooth from being taken out. The entire procedure is carried out by a dentist usually within two or more appointments, depending on the severity of the damage and the condition of the infected area. Two or more appointments are common especially in cases where the entire root canal system is infected with bacteria. This involves dead pulp tissue, teeth with active infections, and retreatment cases. If the patient experiences pain, swelling, or tenderness during treatment, the dentist would take more care and precaution in continuing with the procedure, making it possible to require multiple appointments. The more complicated the case, the more time it will take to complete treatment. Examples of complicated cases include infected teeth with multiple root canals, or infected teeth with root canals that are difficult to find, access, or navigate through.

Prior to starting the procedure, your dentist may take x-rays of the affected tooth. This helps your dentist see a clearer image of the root canal and better assess the extent of the damage plus the work needed to save your tooth. Local anesthetic is administered to the patient before a root canal procedure. This enables the patient not to feel pain or sensitivity during the entire procedure, allowing the dentist to carry out the procedure smoothly and with the patient at relatively relaxed and comfortable. The first appointment is focused on cleaning and shaping the root canal system of the infected tooth.

Your dentist will open your tooth through the crown, which is the flat part at the top of the tooth. They will then access the tooth pulp—the soft tissue at the centre of the tooth. All infected pulp will be removed. After that, your dentist will clean and disinfect the root canal and enlarge it so it can be easily filled. Your dentist will put a temporary filling in your opened tooth to keep it sealed and prevent infection until you go back for the next appointment. The last appointment is for final filling and sealing of the tooth. Appointments are usually scheduled a week after the other. This is done so that in case flare ups develop in between appointment periods, it would be more predictable and easier to manage by the dentist. It also gives your dentist the opportunity to monitor the progress of the healing process.

Over the last few years, newer equipment and techniques have been developed that contribute to the efficiency of root canal treatment. As an estimate, a single root canal procedure lasts between 30 – 60 minutes, and in more complicated cases, as long as 90 minutes. If you have trouble sitting or lying still for extended periods of time, have jaw-joint problems (TMJ), or prefer a series of shorter appointments, let your dentist know before starting with the first appointment. The length of each appointment does not affect efficiency of treatment.

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