How Long Does a Root Canal Take?

Though you might be less aggressive than a cheetah and have more patience,

how long does a root canal take
Cheetah Dentistry

you still don’t want to be at the dentist all day and many times that is the exact reason you keep putting it off.

Here is the secret to measuring the length of a root canal procedure:

Calculate approximately 15 minutes for the post buildup another 15 minutes for crown prep and temporary crown fabrication and now we can add that 30 minutes to whatever you come up with below.

A root canal involves filing and then filling in the roots of a tooth.  Each tooth has a specific number of roots.  If your root canal is on a front tooth, it has 1 root. That’s valid for the four front teeth and the canines on either side of those teeth.

The bicuspids or “premolars” and the molars are a different story.  Bicuspids typically have one canal as well, but don’t be surprised if it has two.  Molars typically have anywhere from two to four canals.

Tooth Names
Tooth Names

Now, this is a very preliminary way of judging because some people are superhuman and have bicuspids with three roots and even incisors with multiple roots or molars with five roots! You can take a good guess but confirm with your dentist who can tell you specifically how many roots you have by taking an X-Ray.

To formulate a good guess, let’s assume your root canal is on a molar that has three canals.  The time you should assume it’s going to take if all goes smoothly and your roots aren’t wrapped around your sinuses and coming out your nose would be about 20 minutes per canal.  Figured into our half hour prepping stage that would put you at an hour and a half or 90 minutes.

90 minutes is good and bad depending on when you schedule it.  When scheduling a root canal, always allow for overtime in the case that the tooth is putting up a fairly decent fight.  Rest assured that the dentist always wins.  What you don’t want to do is schedule the root canal to finish fifteen minutes before it’s time to pick up the kids or meet your boss, etc. In case this does happen, you and your lovely tooth are not altogether lost; the dentist can usually find a stopping place and cover things up for a day or until you can get back.  Just don’t forget to come back in ASAP because as common sense would have it, walking around with an empty tooth can go sour pretty quickly.

Some, in response to the question, “how long does a root canal take?” act like mythbusters and say that it doesn’t take long at all, others will tell you it takes days.  Root canals are typically 1 appointment and not very long at that.  They get the bad rap because they are indeed about the longest procedure you can have done at the dentist where things like fillings end up taking 30 minutes or so.  But in a world where everyone is different and no two things are identical, it is almost impossible to say whether your root canal will be a short or a long procedure outside of the basis given above.

One thing is definite though, if you need a root canal, then you NEED a root canal.


  1. Cynthia Colston says

    I had the beginnings of a root canal done on September 12, 2014. I had to return to the dentist in less than a week, the temporary filling came out causing significant pain. I was finally seen seven hours later (only after I refused to sit and stood at the receptionist counter for an hour) to get another temporary filling and get started on antibiotics. I’ll take the last pill tonight, October 9, 2014. I’m scheduled to have the root canal completed in seven days, October 17, 2014. After reading your blog I’m a highly upset. I had a root canal about 14 years ago, in another state, and it was a same day procedure. I did question the length of time between the temporary and the completed procedure this time and was told it would be fine. I’m very concerned now, I’ve had jaw pain now for five months. I barely open my mouth when I talk and I have constant pain. What the heck am I supposed to do now?! I don’t want the same dentist in my mouth nor do I want to return to the same dental practice.

    • says

      Hi Cynthia, you’re always welcome here at Hoyt Dental but if you can’t make the trip, we suggest looking to Yelp or Google Reviews to find out more about the doctor that will be working on your teeth before going in. We’re terribly sorry about your experience with another doctor and hope you have a good outcome. We have patients travel from out of state fairly often for procedures such as root canals and crowns. Maybe consider a “dental holiday” in sunny southern California!

  2. Sherry says

    I need a root canal on my bottom front teeth and I’m scared that I’m gonna be in a lot of pain and I just have this fear of them, can u give me lil’ more information on what they do and if it hurts.

    Thanks Sherry

    • says

      Hi Sherry, your procedure shouldn’t be very long. It is one canal and the dentist will make a small opening in the back of the tooth where they will remove the sensitive nerves and root and then file the tooth canal. They will then fill it with gutta percha and put a filling in the back where it won’t be visible. This shouldn’t be a painful procedure and you shouldn’t need a crown but that all depends on the condition of your tooth. We’re happy to take a look at it for you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *