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Root Canals

How long is a temporary filling safe?

05/15/2007

Question:

I have a friend who had a root canal with a temporary filling and is being jerked around by the dentist. The root canal was done April 16 and he was to return a week later for the permanent filling. I drove him there for his appointment (1+ hour each way) only to find it had been canceled do to an "emergency." He asked if he could wait, since he was pre-medicated for the visit (antibiotics) and had such a long drive. He was told he`d have to reschedule for May 8. They also canceled the May 8 appointment and now have him rescheduled for May 22.

This gentleman has steel plates in his neck from a serious surgery (replacing several vertebrae) and was cautioned by his surgeon about risks of bacteria entering his blood stream from dental work and collecting on the metal, which could be life threatening. He spoke with someone at the dentist`s office abut this (I`m not sure who) and they assured him there was no problem leaving the temporary filling in for so long. I`m concerned with the risk of infection due to this lengthy wait between the temporary and permanent fillings.

Incidentally, the dentist has canceled a total of 4 appointments, 3 times without prior notice, so we drove nearly 2 1/2 hours (RT) needlessly (costing $35 in gas each time). I`ve suggested he go elsewhere, but he said he`s already paid for the procedure and can`t afford to pay a second time. The work is being done in conjunction with partial dentures.

While the situation is angering, I`m just concerned with his health at this point. If you feel this is a risk to his health, could you tell me if there`s anything we can do?

Thank you for your time.

Answer:

Waiting for a month before having a final filling placed after root canal treatment is not unusual. The temporary filling material usually holds it's seal that long. Depending on the material, the seal may last a bit longer. It is great that your friend is trying to get it completed as soon as possible and should continue to press to get it finished.

Obviously it is impossible for me to comment on how long your friend can wait since I do not know the type of material used or the condition of the tooth. Therefore I cannot comment on how much risk your friend is in by having the final treatment delayed.

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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