Root Canal Treatment
How long does a root canal take? I get asked this question every day, because it really is a good question to ask. You have errands to run, you have to get back to work and you have to pick your kids up from school. In short, you have a busy day and learning how long your root canal takes is very helpful information to plan your day.
So, how long does a root canal take? It depends on the type of tooth, the difficulty of the tooth and how infected the tooth is. In short, approximately:
Anterior: 1 hour
Premolar: 1-1.5 hours
Molar: 1.25-2 hours
Retreatment: Highly Variable
How Long Does a Root Canal Take If You Don’t Care If It Lasts?
That sounds snarky, buy it’s true. In 20-30 minutes, a dentist can numb your tooth, clean it mostly out and fill it so that it looks good on an x-ray. You can pressure your dentist to finish your root canal treatment by a certain time, but that may mean that the dentist has to cut corners to accommodate your request. It isn’t beneficial to pressure your dentist to finish your root canal ASAP.
The three main parts of a root canal are: (1) enlarging and shaping the root canal space, (2) disinfecting the root canal space and (3) filling the root canal space with a rubber-like material. Enlarging and shaping the root canal space insures that enough disinfecting solutions reaches the deepest part of the root canal space. The disinfecting solutions need time to work and if you rush your treatment it’s usually the disinfecting time that gets short changed.
How Long Does a Root Canal Take If You Want the Best Chance of Success?
I love that question because it emphasizes the most important reason to have a root canal. The purpose of a root canal is to disinfect your tooth so that it can last a lifetime. There are a few things that must be accomplished so that we can give you the best results.
First, it is important that we wait sufficient time to start your procedure after injection to numb your tooth so that you can have a comfortable and pain free experience. Some patients who are more difficult to numb and they are expect these issues every time that they go to the dentist. Sometimes teeth that require root canal therapy can be more difficult to achieve total anesthesia. This can happen even if you have never previously had trouble becoming numb before.
Identify All Root Canals
Second, it is crucial that every root canal space gets disinfected. The most common reason for post operative complications and root canal failure is the dentist missing a canal. For example, on upper molars there may be two root canals in one of the roots. Often this root canal is calcified and requires significant time to properly enlarge and shape. Microscopes are a useful tool for root canal treatment, because they allows the dentist to see small canals. Without a dental microscope, these canals could be missed. It takes time extra time to enlarge and shape these canals, which means more time in the dental chair.
Third, after enlarging and shaping the root canal space it takes time for the disinfectant to work. This is a very important part of the root canal that should be given adequate time. There are studies that say that the disinfectant needs 40 minutes to work properly. If your root canal is completed faster than the minimum disinfectant time, I believe that the long term success of the root canal can be compromised.
Ways to Decrease How Long a Root Canal Takes
There are some ways to decrease the time a root canal takes. One of the main factors of how long it takes to complete a root canal is how infected the tooth is when you start. Not every root canal can be completed in one visit and your treatment may require an antibiotic paste be placed inside your tooth to disinfect your root canal space. This will require a second visit to remove the paste and fill the tooth with a rubber-like material. Often, your dentist may give you an antibiotic prescription before treatment to help manage your infection.
Aggitating the disinfecting solution during treatment decreases the minimum disinfection time. Aggitation shakes the infected material from the walls of the root canal space and breaks them into smaller particles. Disinfecting solution are more effective when the surface area of the infected particles is increased.
Increasing the volume of the disinfecting solution can also speed the disinfection process. Consistent irrigation insures that the highest concentration of disinfecting solution is working to clean the infected material in the root canal space.