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Root Canals

Root canal temporary filling

01/13/2006

Question:

I received a root canal about 3 months ago, and it was filled with a temporary filling. The endodontist told me to see my regular dentist to get a permanent filling in my tooth, but it has been wayyy longer than the two weeks suggested between the fillings. Is it awful or a huge problem that I`ve had this temporary filling for so long? I try not to chew with this tooth much. thank you!

Answer:

Waiting to get a permanent filling in this tooth can be risky and lead to reinfection of the tooth. A temporary filling is, as its name implies, a "temporary" filling. It is placed to fill and seal a cavity/hole but so it also can be easily removed. These types of fillings wear and break down relatively quickly. They simply do not have the strength to withstand a lot of chewing and brushing forces. As they begin to wear/break down, the marginal integrity of the filling also diminishes and bacteria are then able to get past these fillings. This would lead to the eventual reinfection of the tooth.

How long is too long? I cannot really answer that since I don't know what type of temporary material was used and how much. However, if you were to completely lose the temporary filling, research has shown that the root canal will become infected within 21 days or less. If this were to happen, then the root canal would need to be redone prior to you having a permanent filling or crown placed on that tooth. Therefore, the longer you wait to have a permanent filling placed, the greater the risk you run in having this reinfection occur. There is also a risk of fracturing the tooth the longer you wait in getting a crown done on a back tooth.

I recommend you see your dentist soon to get this looked at and the tooth restored.

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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