How Long Does a Root Canal Take?

If you have recently been told you need a root canal to correct an issue with your tooth, you likely have several questions popping up in the back of your head. Some of these questions you likely asked when the dentist informed you of the news, while other questions might have come to you later on. Calling the office and talking to a dentist isn’t always possible. They are busy individuals who will be working with patients for the majority of the day. 

Thankfully, most of your questions can be addressed before your scheduled root canal. And while every case is different and may not be determined until the dentist or endodontist has started working, it is possible to give you some general information about your questions.

One such question you might have is how long a root canal takes. Here’s what you need to know regarding the procedure and how long you may be at the dental office for the root canal.

Basic Root Canal Timeline

The root canal procedure itself can take around 30 to 60 minutes. Add in prep work, and you can be looking somewhere in the ballpark of 90 minutes. However, you can’t always bank on a root canal being this much of a breeze. It isn’t always possible to know exactly how tightly wound the canals within the tooth are. This is often something that won’t be exactly known until the procedure begins. Because these canals can be elaborate and difficult to transverse, some root canals can take upwards of three hours.

Now, a three-hour procedure isn’t common, but it is a possibility, so it is a good idea not to schedule any important work meetings or other activities later in the day. While you can return to work following the procedure, it is impossible to say exactly how long your root canal will take before starting the procedure.

Why Does a Root Canal Take So Long?

Many patients have had cavities in the past. The process of removing the cavity and filling it in is a perfected procedure that takes no time at all. Because a cavity filling takes such little time, some patients may wonder why a root canal requires so much more time.

This is because, during a root canal, it is necessary to remove all the dead and infected nerve endings. This isn’t done by simply drilling out the infection and then filling in the tooth. The dentist or endodontist will go through the individual root canals and clear away the nerves and other pulp. While some teeth only have one major canal, others have several. The more canals a tooth has, the longer it takes.

It is important to ensure all of the damaged nerve endings have been cleared away because if not, the infection will return, as will the pain, and the last thing you want to deal with is a second root canal to go back in and remove what was missed the first time around.

The Tooth Plays a Role

It is possible to estimate better how long a root canal will take based on the tooth itself. If one of your front teeth requires a root canal, there’s less of a chance of there being multiple canals. However, if you have a molar that requires the procedure, there can be up to four canals, which may mean four times as much work. Because of this, if you have a molar that needs to be worked on, you can expect the procedure itself to last a little longer. The rest of the teeth in your mouth will typically have only one or two canals, so these teeth will generally not take as long.

A Second Visit

It is possible, in some instances, that the root canal might be broken down into two visits. Your dentist or endodontist might recommend performing the root canal during one visit and then applying the crown or permanent filling during a second visit. Sometimes this is done to ensure all the bacteria, and other organic material has been removed before sealing it up. Your dentist can go in a week or two later, inspect the tooth, and then apply the permanent filling.


You will want to care for your teeth as you would normally, including brushing and flossing. If you are waiting for a second appointment, your dentist will give you specific instructions on what you shouldn’t eat (such as anything hard). You might feel some pain and discomfort for several days following the root canal. Your gums might experience some inflammation due to the trauma sustained by the tooth. This is short-lived, though, and will likely only remain for a few days. You can take regular over-the-counter pain medication if it is too much, but again the pain will not linger.

If, however, the pain remains after several days or even begins to worsen, you will need to contact your dentist and schedule a check-up. In these instances, it is possible some nerve endings were not completely removed. This will need to be addressed.

Schedule Your Root Canal Consultation Today

Most general dentists will perform root canals. However, for one reason or another, they may recommend you seek a specialist. On the other hand, you might decide to obtain a second opinion from an endodontist. Whatever situation you might find yourself in, whether you want a second opinion or know you need a root canal and would like to schedule it with a specialist, the staff here at Southern Endodontic Specialists is ready to assist. So schedule your root canal consultation with our office staff today, or feel free to request a consultation directly through our website. Whatever works for you, our staff is here to help.