How Long Does A Root Canal Take? A Complete Guide!

By Jason Wesley

Updated On

A root canal can be generally described as the procedure to replace damaged pulp with an inert material. It becomes necessary when the tooth displays signs of infection or pulpal nerve damage. If this condition is left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss and cause serious oral difficulties.

Health experts believe poor hygiene is not the only reason for root canal problems. Injuries and in certain cases, even genetics play a role in causing this condition. It is typically a bacterial infection occurring in the inner chambers of the teeth. In most cases, it gets worse due to the lack of timely treatment leading to dental decay and trauma. If the condition persists the infection can spread to other areas of the body and become life-threatening. 

What is a Root Canal?

As mentioned, a root canal is a procedure to remove infected pulp material from the tooth and cushion the gap with healthy static materials. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a painful procedure.

However, it may cause some mild discomfort for a few days. An ideal root canal surgery is where the endodontist removes infected pulp and nerves, cleans the gap, and fills an inert material before sealing the space. The procedure can be best described as a course of action that allows a person to retain healthy teeth and gums and lead a trauma-free life.

Duration of a Typical Root Canal Procedure

Preparation for a Root Canal

There are a few things that somebody preparing for a root canal should practice. As it involves injecting anesthesia into the gums before the procedure, the patient may find it difficult to eat. Hence, eating before the root canal treatment procedure is advisable.

The second most important thing to do is to take a painkiller that helps to suppress the pain and reduce inflammation. It is natural to have apprehensions before undergoing such a medical procedure.

However, a good night’s sleep the day before and after the treatment is highly recommended as It helps the body’s inherent mechanisms to reduce inflammation and heal itself. 

The Root Canal Procedure: Step-by-Step

As we have been discussing, the root canal procedure is the removal of the infected pulp and restoring the tooth with the support of healthy and durable materials. It may sound simple however it is a procedure that should be done carefully.

It requires careful planning based on the patient’s health and the severity of the condition to ensure the successful completion of the process. Let us learn more about the procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

Before the actual procedure, the numbing agent is injected into the gums and the tooth’s root. The dental dam is placed strategically to isolate the tooth which requires treatment and the rest of the tooth is covered.

Cleaning the pulp chamber

To access the root canals and the pulp chamber the dentist drills the tooth and cleans the area. An antibacterial solution is used to clean the chambers and the canals. It will help to eliminate the bacteria. 

Molding and filling the canals

The root canals should be shaped before the root canals are filled with filling materials. It is achieved by precision instruments that help the operation without causing any damage to the sensitive areas of the mouth. Once done, a material termed gutta-percha, a hard thermoplastic substance used extensively in dentistry, is placed inside the molded chambers and sealed. 

Patching the access area

Patching up the hole created to access the canals is important and is done using mouth-friendly and durable materials. It helps to deter any possibility of infections in the future.

Treatment medication

After the procedure, the dentist prescribes certain medications to heal the inflammation. These drugs should be taken without fail. It is normal to have discomfort in the area where the treatment has been done. Within a few days, all minor difficulties will subside on their own.

Placing the crown

It is common to place a crown over the tooth which suffered certain damage. In that case, the patient revisits the dentist to have a crown placed around the treated teeth to add strength and stability. In some cases, where the tooth suffered irreversible damage a permanent crown is fixed.

Time Estimates for Root Canal Procedures

Normally, the root canal procedure is completed within one or two hours. However, in some cases, it can take multiple sessions and can extend to some more time.

The most common factors that influence the length of the procedure are tooth location, extent of the infection, and other complications. It also depends on the number of canals and the expertise of the dentist who performs the procedure.

Pain Management and Patient Comfort

The health bodies like The National Institutes of Health observed that a single dose of 10 mg ketorolac or 100 mg tapentadol could significantly reduce postoperative pain. In recent times, the effectiveness of pulpal anesthesia has improved a lot and instances of severe pain have been reported very less.

However, applying an ice pack or using saltwater would be helpful in case the pain bothers someone who has undergone the procedure. It is also good to avoid cold beverages and alcohol after the completion of the surgical treatment.

Recovery Time and Aftercare

Normally, the recovery can take up to 2-3 days. However, there are always exceptions to this. In some cases, it has been reported that the patient returns to normal life within hours. The patients should do their part like flossing and brushing their teeth daily. It also helps attend biannual cleaning at the dentist to ensure the problem does not relapse. 

Alternatives to Root Canal Treatment

While root canal surgery helps repair the tooth without removing it, some methods are available that can be better alternatives. Check out the following.

  • Direct pulp capping

In Direct pulp capping, a healthy material such as mineral trioxide aggregate or calcium hydroxide is placed over the pulp. It acts as a barrier and also does tissue repair. Direct pulp capping works better only if the condition is at the earlier stages and no signs of inflammation or decay occur.

  • Tooth extraction

This method is mostly applied in worst-case scenarios where the tooth has suffered irreparable damage and there is no hope for revival. The forceps, an instrument used when performing dental surgery, are used to grasp the tooth and loosen it from the socket before disposing of it.

  • Pulpotomy

A pulpotomy is performed on a tooth that responds to touch and temperature. However, it has to be treated to prevent bacterial growth and inflammation. The inflamed pulp is replaced with materials such as calcium hydroxide and MTA. It is suitable for children who have underdeveloped adult teeth with no roots to hold them.


In this article, we have talked about root canal surgery and how long it takes to get back to normal life. The recovery can depend on the condition’s severity, the individual’s age, and overall health. We have also discussed the steps involved in the procedure and explored the other alternatives. The root canal procedure does not cause severe pain and causes only mild discomfort for a few days. Maintaining good oral hygiene and avoiding chewing on the treated tooth will go a long way in helping the patient return to normal life much faster.


1. How painful is a root canal?

The root canal is a painless procedure if done correctly. However, it can cause minor discomfort that usually subsides within one or two days.

2. How long does a root canal procedure take?

Normally, the complete procedure is completed within two hours. However, in some cases, it can extend depending on the severity of the condition and other factors.

3. Can I drive after a root canal?

It is advised not to drive soon after undergoing a root canal procedure as movements can trigger pain.

4. Why does a root canal take 2 hours?

Typically, a root canal procedure involves finding the problem area and the gravity of the infection which is time-consuming.

5. What is the hardest tooth to get a root canal on?

The maxillary first molars are difficult to apply root canal procedures as they have a complicated anatomy.

6. Do I need a crown after a root canal?

The crown has to be placed over the tooth that is premolar and is used often for chewing the food.

Jason Wesley

Jason Wesley, DDS, is a highly skilled dentist specializing in cosmetic dentistry, renowned for his commitment to excellence and patient-centered care. With years of experience in the field, he is deeply committed to helping individuals achieve their dream smiles through personalized treatment plans tailored to their unique needs.

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