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Root Canals

Incomplete root canal

01/23/2007

Question:

If a root canal is started but left unfinished (left with temporary filling) what could be the consequences?

Answer:

Leaving a root canal unfinished with only a temporary filling in place could lead to a lot of problems. The temporary fillings are only meant to seal the tooth for about 1-2 months. Some last longer and some shorter depending on how much the tooth is used (chewing) and the type of temporary material utilized. Once the temporary loses its seal (and you won't know it has unless it completely comes out) saliva and the bacteria in it can get into the tooth and down the open root canals.

This re-infection can cause quite a bit of swelling and pain and is often hard to get under control. The root canal will then have to be recleaned, special medication placed, and then completed at yet another visit.

Another issue is that the tooth is unprotected while a temporary is in place. If the tooth is a molar (back tooth) there is a great risk of fracture of the tooth every time it is used. Molars require crowns or protective fillings after root canal treatment and delaying this process puts the patient at risk for losing the tooth.

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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