Quick answer:

The average root canal treatment is 30 to 60 minutes long. More complex cases may take around 90 minutes.

A root canal typically requires one or two appointments to complete.

Now, wait! 

Before you run off terrified at the idea of 30 to 90 minutes of pain, we’ve got a secret to tell you…

Root canal procedures shouldn’t hurt.

What you’ve been told about root canals causing pain is a myth.

The truth is, root canal therapy gets you out of pain. The pain associated with this procedure comes from the tooth itself before getting treated.

A woman holding her mouth in pain with text, "MYTH: Root canal treatment is painful. TRUTH: The real pain comes from leaving your infected tooth untreated."

At Love Your Smile, we value honesty and telling you what you can expect from any of our treatments.

So in this blog, we’re going to lay out everything you should know about root canals before you get one. That way, there are no surprises.

What is a root canal?

A root canal is a pulp chamber inside a tooth. It contains pulp, nerves, and blood vessels. These connect your tooth to your bone and gums.

Every root has a root canal, some have more than one.

When a root canal becomes infected or inflamed, it needs a root canal procedure to treat it.

If left untreated, the infection spreads to other teeth and other parts of your body. Your tooth may turn black or yellow, and you’re more at risk to experience heightened symptoms, like pain.

The alternative to a root canal procedure is tooth extraction. But that can cause more pain, more expenses down the road, and you’ll lose the health benefits of your natural tooth.

What causes a tooth to get infected?

Common causes for root canal infections include:

  • Dental decay (cavities) that spreads beneath the enamel layer and into the pulp chamber.
  • Dental damage, like chips and cracks, that exposes the inner layer of your tooth, allowing harmful bacteria inside.
  • Dental trauma, even if there aren’t visible signs.
  • Repeated dental treatments to a tooth.

How do you know if you need a root canal?

Common symptoms you need a root canal include:

  • Tooth pain that it is persistent or comes and goes repeatedly
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Swollen gums
  • Pain when you touch or chew on the tooth
  • Chips or cracks on your tooth

Another way to know:

When your dentist says you have an infected tooth and need a root canal (duh!). This may seem obvious, but people tend to ignore the advice and pay for the consequences later.

What is a root canal procedure?

Short version:

This endodontic procedure removes the infection from within your tooth, disinfects the inside, fills and seals the pulp chamber, and preserves the healthy tooth structure with a dental crown.

An icon of a tooth with text, "root canals have a 95% success rate!"

Long version:

Here’s what you can expect with root canals in Seattle, WA:

1. Dr. Maurissa Kiefer will numb the entire area surrounding your tooth.

If you have difficulty getting numb or suffer from dental anxiety, we offer sedation dentistry to keep you comfortable.

2. We’ll create a tiny opening in your tooth to access the pulp chamber.

3. We’ll carefully remove the infection and pulp.

4. We’ll thoroughly disinfect and rinse the inside of your tooth.

If necessary, we may place medication inside your tooth to kill off the infection and have you return for another appointment to complete the treatment.

5. Your root canal will be filled and sealed with a high-quality resin to prevent reinfection and reinforce the structure of your tooth.

Lastly, a dental crown may be recommended to protect your tooth from breaking and restore its function. If this is the case, you may require an additional appointment to have the crown made and placed.

In some cases, a crown may not be necessary. Before we start your treatment, we’ll go over these expectations.

How long does a root canal take?

The length of time a root canal takes typically varies on two factors: how many roots your tooth has and how bad the infection is.

Typically, a root canal procedure requires one or two visits. Each visit can vary between 30 to 90 minutes on average.

Here’s a quick rundown on the average time it takes for each tooth:

  • Molars: 90 minutes or more. Molars are located in the back of your mouth and have up to four roots.
  • Premolars: 60 minutes. Premolars are in between your molars and anterior teeth and have one or two roots.
  • Canines and incisors: 45 to 60 minutes. These teeth have only one root.

If your tooth needs a dental crown, that’ll require more time, which may take up to 60 minutes. Often, this step will require another appointment, allowing time to guarantee your tooth has healed before the crown is permanently placed.

How painful is a root canal?

A root canal is a major dental procedure. So you may experience some slight discomfort… This text opens a new tab to the article on root canal myths…, just as you would with a dental filling.

However, it shouldn’t be painful. A general anesthetic will keep your tooth and surrounding area numb throughout the whole procedure.

As the anesthetic wears off when you get home, you may feel some discomfort. You can manage the pain with over-the-counter pain medication like Advil.

The real pain comes from not getting it treated.

An untreated infected tooth can result in excruciating pain and result in an emergency root canal, which is way more costly.

Fun facts:

Many patients who were in pain before treatment claim that the procedure actually provided them with pain relief.

And check out this statistic from The American Association of Endodontists… This text opens a new tab to the AAE website…:

A person relaxing on a chair with text, "Patients who experience root canals are six times more likely to describe it as painless than patients who have a tooth extracted!" - The American Association of Enodontists"

Need a root canal dentist in Seattle?

Our Seattle dentist, Dr. Kiefer, offers general/family dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, and restorative dentistry, including pain-free root canals.

We’re located in downtown Seattle, next to Amazon and the Space Needle, and serve communities all over the Greater Seattle Area.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of a root canal or have been told you need one, contact us today for an appointment. The sooner we see you, the sooner we can get you out of pain.

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