Updated: 2/13/2020

Root Canal Awareness Week is March 25-31 this year, and we’ll be debunking a popular root canal myth every day this week.

MYTH #4: Root canals are a lengthy process and require several appointments.

For some reason, many people think of root canal therapy as a long process that involves several follow-up appointments in addition to the actual procedure. While sometimes a follow-up visit may be required, root canal therapy can typically be completed in just one visit.

The length of the treatment actually depends on the severity of the condition. Simple root canals can be performed in just one visit. However, certain cases may require more frequent visits to the dentist to be sure that the infection is, in fact, gone.

Root Canal Procedure

A root canal is a basic surgical procedure. First, the dentist takes an X-ray to detect any infection in the surrounding bone. The area will then be numbed, and a rubber dam is placed in the mouth to keep the area dry during the procedure. The dental dam also keeps any bacteria pulled out of the root canal from spreading to other parts of the mouth.

A hole is then drilled into the tooth, and the dentist or endodontist removes the bacteria, the decayed nerve tissue and any other debris from the tooth. The tooth is then cleaned with tools called root canal files, which reach down the full length of the tooth to scrape the sides of the root canals clean. After this, water or sodium hypochlorite is often used to flush away any remaining debris.

Sealing the Tooth

All of this is completed in one visit. At this point, the tooth will need to be sealed. Often, the dentist will go ahead and seal it in that same visit. In some cases, however, a temporary filling may be placed and a follow-up appointment will be required to complete the sealing process. For example, if the tooth is infected, the dentist may want to put something inside the tooth to help kill bacteria and reduce inflammation before sealing off the tooth completely.

The last step is filling the inside of the tooth with a sealer paste and a rubber compound, then closing off the top of the hole with a dental crown or large filling. Sometimes this is done at a later time from the actual procedure.

Root canal therapy isn’t a lengthy process. Typically, the entire procedure can be done in one day and only takes around an hour to complete. Of course, the length of the process will depend on each individual case. Some may require more visits and may take up to 2-3 hours to complete. Be sure to talk to your dentist or endodontist about what this procedure means for you.

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See the rest of the series:

MYTH #1: Root canal treatment is painful.

MYTH #2: Root canals cause illness.

MYTH #3: Root canals are unnecessary if you’re not in pain.

MYTH #4: Root canals are a lengthy process.

MYTH #5: It is better to just pull the tooth.