Why Your Root Canal Might Feature a Pause in the Middle

Your upcoming root canal procedure will feature a pause in the middle. The first stage of the process involves removing the tooth's infected pulp (which is its nerve) and filling the empty pulp chamber with a natural latex called gutta-percha. The final stage is giving the tooth a permanent cavity (and possibly a dental crown). Between these stages, there's a pause when your tooth will be fitted with a temporary crown. Why does this need to happen?

The Tooth's Internal Layout

The structure of a tooth's nerve isn't always straightforward. There can be variations to their shapes, as well as variations in the layout of a tooth's pulp chamber. Some teeth have multiple roots, with the nerve branching off in several directions. For a root canal to be successful, an infected pulp must be removed in its entirety. This brief pause after the first stage is simply your dentist being cautious for your benefit.

The Tooth's Infection

After the empty pulp chamber has been thoroughly irrigated and filled, your dentist will seal your tooth with a temporary filling. Just how temporary it needs to be will vary, but it's a short-term solution—days, possibly weeks, but not months. When you return to your dentist, they'll assess the state of your tooth and whether the infection originating from your dental pulp is under control. Given the complexity of a tooth's pulp, it may be that sections of it have remained inside the tooth. This is the reason for the pause. Unlikely though it is, your dentist may need to treat the tooth again to remove the last fragments of the infected pulp.

Your Temporary Filling

In the meantime, your tooth will be fitted with a temporary filling. This filling is designed to protect your tooth's internal sections from contaminants that may cause decay, as well as to support its overall structure. It will be softer than a permanent filling, and you'll need to take some care with it—particularly while eating.

Caution While Eating

Your root canal is, for the moment, unfinished. The tooth with a temporary filling isn't as strong as it will be when the procedure is finished, so you'll need to exercise some caution while eating. No, you won't need to stick to a diet of soups and stews, but avoid anything too hard and crunchy. Sticky foods are also a potential problem, as you don't want to dislodge your temporary filling. 

When your root canal is ready to be finalized, your dentist will remove the temporary filling and add a permanent replacement. Some patients will need a dental crown on the treated tooth for maximum stability. But your root canal, necessary pause and all, is now finished.