If your dentist determines that you require a root canal, it means that you have developed an infection in your tooth. If you have ever wondered how long you can go without getting a root canal, you are not alone. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for individuals to put off a root canal. However, understanding the procedure as well as the impact that delaying it can have will likely provide you the motivation to get your tooth taken care of in a timely manner, saving you a lot of pain and additional expense.

What to expect

Once it’s been determined that you need a root canal the first thing your dentist will most likely do is prescribe an antibiotic. However, although an antibiotic can give you a few weeks to address the issue, simply taking the medication will not cure the infection. You must undergo a root canal within a few weeks to fully eliminate the infection and save your tooth.

In general, a root canal typically takes about two hours to complete, but it can require subsequent visits depending on the severity of the damage. The procedure begins with the administration of a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth. Once the area is numb, the dentist will place a sheet of rubber around your tooth to ensure the area remains dry during the procedure. Next, your dentist will drill a hole into your tooth to allow access to the center of the tooth where the infection is located. They will then remove the damaged nerve tissue, tooth pulp, and any debris that is harboring the bacteria that caused the infection.

A series of root canal files of increasing diameters are used to scrub out the infected tissues from the inside of the tooth and the sides of the tooth’s root canal. Your dentist will also periodically rinse away any debris, using sodium hypochlorite or water.

Sealing the tooth is the last step and can be done on the same day. However, if your dentist determines that you need medication placed within the tooth to further eliminate any possible infection, they will usually wait a week before sealing your tooth. Additionally, if your tooth is not sealed on the day of the procedure, you will receive a temporary filling that is designed to keep out food and saliva as both can contaminate the area. Finally, your dentist might also put a crown on the tooth to keep it secure and in place, helping to ensure the tooth is saved.

Delaying a root canal

When people try to push the limits of how long they can go without getting a root canal, they’re basically playing with fire. Root canals have a bit of an undeserved reputation for being painful, so the thought of undergoing the procedure can be scary for some. In reality, the procedure is very similar to having a cavity filled in that there is very little discomfort due to the use of a local anesthetic.

In terms of delaying the procedure, it is important to understand that any damage to a tooth’s pulp or nerve tissue can lead to the formation of bacteria inside the tooth. Left unchecked, the bacteria will multiply, which can lead to a variety of complications.


An infection in your tooth can lead to the formation of an abscess. An abscess is a pocket of pus that develops at the end of a tooth’s root. If you develop an abscess, you will require emergency treatment.

Bone loss

If you wait a long time to undergo a root canal, bacteria will attack the tip of the tooth’s root, causing serious bone loss. Such bone loss can result in tooth loss.

Swelling and pressure

Although you might begin to feel some pain relief as the nerves begin to die, an infected tooth can ultimately lead to increased pressure and painful swelling in the face, head, or neck.

Tooth loss

In some cases, if you wait too long, an infection can lead to severe root decay. Once the root decays beyond a certain point, it is not possible to save the tooth.


As the bacteria multiply, your tooth can become damaged to the point that a hole can form on the side of the tooth, allowing the infection to drain into the surrounding gums as well as into the cheek, surrounding skin, and bloodstream. If the infection enters your bloodstream, it can cause sepsis, which is a potentially life-threatening condition that can damage multiple organs.

Systemic inflammation

An infection in your tooth can cause inflammation to spread throughout your body. Systemic inflammation can increase your risk for serious health issues, such as stroke and heart disease.

If you need a root canal, the issue will not self-heal. Although you might be tempted to delay getting a root canal, it is important to understand that the problem will not go away. In fact, even if the pain goes away, it can be a very bad sign as it is an indication that the infection is continuing, not abating. Additionally, the infection can become so serious that you can ultimately lose part of your jaw, which will require you to undergo reconstructive surgery.

Finally, if you avoid the issue to the point that you lose your tooth, it can increase your risk for developing gum disease and decay for your remaining teeth.

In need of a root canal?

If you live in the Greater Toronto Area and are in need of a root canal, please York Hill Endodontics by clicking here or calling 416-781-5251.


Article originally appeared at: https://fortsondentistry.com/

Author: Fortson Dentistry