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Root Canal Therapy Timeline – How Long Does It Take?

Excerpt: Severe tooth infections that have penetrated the tooth into the inner part of the tooth can be a serious...
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Root Canal Therapy

Root canal therapy is a procedure where the inner part of the tooth is cleared out to prevent further infection.

Who Needs Root Canal Therapy?

Severe tooth infections that have penetrated the tooth into the inner part of the tooth can be a serious, painful, and potentially life-threatening situation. Root canal therapy prevents the infection from spreading to other teeth and is meant to save the already infected tooth. The dentist will also recommend the procedure be finished off with the addition of a crown to fortify the tooth and cover the hole that was created by the drill.


If the pulp of your tooth has been infected, inflamed, or injured, it could be for a number of reasons:


  • Deep decay
  • A crack chip in the tooth
  • Dental Trauma
  • Constant pulsating pain
  • Pain when eating
  • Sensitivity to temperature
  • Abscess
  • Swollen gums
  • Facial swelling
  • Darkening of the gums
  • Damaged teeth

If the patient does not have the budget for root canal therapy, or their insurance does not cover it, they will need to extract the tooth. 

How Do You Know If You Need Root Canal Therapy?

There are a number of tests a dentist may use to determine if a tooth needs root canal therapy:
  • Cold test
  • Electric pulp test (EPT)
  • Periodontal probing
  • Percussion or “tapping”
  • Palpation or “touching”
  • Mobility test
  • Bite test
  • X-rays at various angles 
It will usually be difficult for a person to determine if they need root canal therapy, they will need the professional diagnosis of a dentist or endodontist. There are some claims online that you can alternatively treat your tooth with natural ingredients, but these are false. Severe tooth infections need to be handled by medical professionals.

What To Expect During A Root Canal Procedure?

Receiving Anesthetic

If you do not require heavier sedation for dental anxiety, you will receive local anesthetic. This is injected near the tooth, it will not put you to sleep, but it will effectively numb the pain caused by the procedure. If you still have feelings in the tooth after this step, you need to inform the dentist. Some people have different levels of tolerance to anesthetic and may need more.

Placing A Dental Dam

A piece of latex or nitrile square sheet is used to prevent any saliva or bacteria from entering the tooth. Before the procedure starts, you should inform the dentist of any allergies you may have, this includes latex.

Removing The Pulp

This is the main goal of the procedure. The dentist or endodontist (specialist) will use a specialized set of tools to complete this step. First, they will create an opening on the top of the tooth. After the opening is made, the inner pulp of the tooth will be cleared out. The dentist or endodontist will also sterilize the tooth to prevent any further infection from occurring.

Placing Antibiotics

Topical antibiotics may also be applied to the affected tooth to prevent infection from occurring. The tooth will be vulnerable during this time due to the hole created by the procedure.

Filling The Canals

The dentist or endodontist will use a flexible material called gutta-percha

Sealing The  Tooth

The dentist will seal the tooth to cover the hole that was created by the drill.

Placing The Final Restoration

The structural integrity of the tooth will be compromised due to the nature of the operation. It is highly recommended to finish the tooth with a crown as a restorative measure. A crown is not absolutely mandatory but should be done to ensure the tooth does not break or fracture after the root canal therapy.

How Long Does A Root Canal Take?

On average, a standard root canal procedure will take roughly an hour to complete, and can potentially be accomplished all in one sitting (it may take more than one sitting). If you have a procedure that has unusual complications, it may take more than an hour.

When Is More Than One Appointment Required?

If the patient has a significant infection in the tooth then the dentist will have to clear this infection out before they can continue. A disinfectant medication will be used to clear the issue, but this medication will take time to reduce the infection.

General dentists handle root canal procedures on a regular basis and can do them quite effectively. However, there can be complications that may make the procedure difficult. If a dentist feels that the procedure is out of their scope of experience, they will refer you to a specialist called an endodontist.  

Root Canal Therapy Timeline

Many people are under the impression that root canal therapy is incredibly painful and discomforting, however, this is a myth. Dentists do their best to mitigate any pain or discomfort you may feel so the experience will be as easy as possible for you.

Day Of Procedure

The local anesthetic will numb any significant pain or discomfort you may feel during the operation. The dentist will most likely recommend you take OTC (over-the-counter) medication to reduce any pain or discomfort you may feel afterward. Using Ibuprofen (Advil) or Naproxen (Aleve) will significantly reduce any inflammation that was caused as a result of the procedure. You can also take acetaminophen (Tylenol) which will increase your body’s pain tolerance. Do not overuse these drugs as they can be damaging if taken in excess. Read the instructions on the bottle and take them as required.

Days 1-2

In the first couple of days after the procedure, the affected area may still be tender and sensitive. It is best to stick to a soft food diet mostly consisting of yogurt, soup, and other easy-to-digest foods. Yogurt is a probiotic, so this will aid in recovery.

Days 3-5

You should be feeling little or no pain at this point. You can start introducing your normal foods back into your diet, but you may want to stay away from hot or cold food or beverages.

Days 6-10

If any pain or discomfort is significant at this point, you should call your dentist as the affected area should mostly be healed. Normally you should be able to start eating and drinking as you normally would.

Root Canal in 3d

Aftercare Tips For Faster Recovery

Your body will need to recover from the procedure, if you follow these tips it can speed up recovery:

  • You should avoid eating or drinking until the anesthetic has worn off to prevent any trauma.
  • Don’t drink or smoke for 24-48 hours after recovery.
  • Don’t chew with the treated tooth until it is fully restored with a crown.
  • Brush and floss as normal, but be gentle with the treated tooth.
  • Take Ibuprofen to reduce the swelling, which will help it to heal faster.
  • If the pain worsens, or other symptoms start to develop, call you dentist.
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