How long does a root canal take?

One of the most common dental procedures is root canal therapy. In fact, according to the American Dental Association, roughly 50% of all people will need a root canal procedure at some point in their lifetime.

Many people don’t know what root canal therapy is or why they would want it done. But if you have ever had an infected tooth or tooth pain, you may be a good candidate for a root canal treatment.

What is a root canal procedure, and why do you need one?

A root canal is an endodontic treatment used to treat a damaged or infected tooth. This procedure aims to remove the infected or damaged soft tissue from inside the tooth and protect the tooth from further damage.

Root canals are typically needed when a tooth has an infection or when the nerve tissue inside the tooth dies. Infection or damage can happen for several reasons, including cavities, trauma, or even extreme cold or heat.

An infected or damaged tooth can cause pain, swelling, and other problems in the mouth. Root canals are a common and effective way to treat these problems and restore the health of the natural tooth.

How long does a root canal take?

The time devoted to a root canal depends on the number of roots and the severity of the infection.

Typically, a simple root canal procedure lasts one to two visits. On average, each session will last between 30 and 90 minutes. Molars will usually take the longest because they can have up to four roots, requiring treatment for up to four canals.

If you require a dental crown, more time will be necessary to place the crown. It’s typical for this step to need another appointment, allowing time for the tooth to heal before the crown is permanently set.

Why does a root canal procedure usually take two visits?

Unfortunately, your dentist cannot clean some infected teeth entirely in a single appointment. Instead, your dentist will clean the canals and place medications inside the tooth structure itself. Then your dentist will prescribe you a course of antibiotics to help you clear the remaining infection from the affected tooth.

After you finish your antibiotics, you will return for another appointment. Your dentist will check your tooth to ensure the infection has fully cleared and then complete the rest of the dental procedure.

What is the procedure like?

The procedure for root canals is relatively simple. Your dentist will numb the area before drilling a small hole in the top of the tooth, and the infected or damaged tissue is removed. The inside of the tooth is then cleaned and sealed off to protect your natural tooth from further damage.

What are the risks associated with root canals, and how can they be minimized?

Although root canals are generally safe and effective procedures, they have a few risks. You can minimize risks by choosing a qualified and experienced dentist and following all post-treatment instructions.

The most common risks associated with root canals are:

  • Root canal infections are the most common risk associated with the procedure. To minimize this risk, make sure to follow all post-treatment instructions carefully.
  • Nerve damage is a rare but potential risk. If the nerve tissue is damaged, restoring the tooth may not be possible.
  • Tooth fracture can occur if the infection or damage weakens the tooth.
  • Sinus infection is a rare complication if bacteria from the mouth enter the sinuses.
  • Allergic reaction to the anesthetic is also a rare but potential risk.
How painful is a root canal?

Root canals are usually not very painful. Most patients receive either local anesthesia—an injection that numbs the tooth and surrounding gums—or mild sedation. They may feel anxious or uneasy about how their treatment will go.

Those who are more nervous or sensitive to pain beforehand might experience some discomfort after receiving anesthesia. However, any pain or discomfort will quickly dissipate and should not persist throughout the treatment. If it does, be sure to communicate this to your dentist.

Some people experience pain for a short time after the procedure. Usually, it will only last for a few hours. Any discomfort should disappear within a day or two of the process.

If the pain persists or becomes severe, please get in touch with your dentist immediately.

Are there alternatives to a root canal?

Sometimes a tooth may become too damaged or infected to save. Other times, the patient cannot afford the cost of the treatment or does not want to have it done. However, your dentist can usually treat tooth infection or damage with a root canal.

Some alternatives to root canal therapy are:

  • A crown is a restoration designed to protect a weakened or damaged tooth. Sometimes, a crown can provide sufficient protection if the tooth is not infected.
  • Tooth extraction is the most common alternative to a root canal procedure. It is typically done when the tooth is too damaged or infected to be saved. After an extraction, it’s essential to consider a replacement, such as a bridge or dental implant.
How much do root canals cost on average, and what is the best way to finance one?

The cost can vary depending on the size and complexity of the issue with the tooth being treated. However, the average price of a root canal is between $600 and $1,200.

There are several ways to finance root canal treatment. First, your dental insurance may cover a portion of the cost, and you can discuss payment plans with our office staff.

Can I drive myself home after a root canal?

Yes, most people can drive themselves home after a root canal. However, it is always best to ask your dentist if it is safe to go after your procedure. If you feel uncomfortable, please do not drive.

Contact us for a root canal appointment!

At Legacy Dentistry of Virginia, we understand that a root canal can be an intimidating and expensive procedure. Our dental team devotes time to talking with every patient about their individual needs before undergoing treatment.

We will work with you to find the best treatment plan for your budget. So don’t let fear or anxiety prevent you from getting the dental care you need – call us today and schedule your consultation!

David Head Shot
David T. Babington, DDS

Dr. David T. Babington grew up in the Chantilly area and attended Paul IV High School in Fairfax, where his involvement on the Cross Country team ignited his lifelong love of running. 

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