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Root Canals

1 step or 2

11/19/2003

Question:

I had a root canal done recently. Everything went fine. My dentist does the procedure in 2 steps on 2 different days. He mentioned that some of his colleagues do the whole thing in one visit. Is there any advantage or disadvantage to one way over the other?

Answer:

There really is not any significant advantage or disadvantage of doing a root canal in 1 or 2 steps. However, there are a number of factors which may influence the decision of doing a root canal in 1 or more appointments. The main two are:

1) the state of the tissue within the tooth being treated;

2) the experience and expertise of the practitioner doing the root canal therapy.

If the tissue within the tooth is badly infected, it is often prudent to wait for the infection to clear before finishing the root canal. Endodontists and dentists often place a medication (usually calcium hydroxide) in the roots to help kill bacteria between treatment appointments. If the patient is doing well and there is no sign of infection at the second appointment, the root canal is completed. If the tissue within the tooth is vital (alive), the root canal can be completed safely in one appointment. This is when the experience and efficiency of the practioner comes into play. Some general dentists do not do a lot of root canals, so they take a little longer to complete as compared to a specialist (endodontist) who only does root canals and is very efficient in completing treatment in a single appointment. However, complications or difficulties may occur which may lead to treatment requiring two or more appointments.

The only disadvantage, I can see, to having a root canal done in two appointments versus one is the extra appointment the patient needs to have the root canal finished. However, if two appointments are needed to ensure the root canal is done properly so the patient can heal, then two appointments is the proper course.

Thanks for your question.

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Response by:

John M Nusstein, DDS John M Nusstein, DDS
Associate Professor of Endodontics
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University