root canal treatment and pregnancy

As if you don’t have enough appointments to schedule, anxiety, and changes to deal with, you’ve just been told you may be a candidate for a root canal.

Even during the most convenient of times, few patients like to hear that they need a root canal, but especially when pregnant! A pregnant patient has all the same concerns, along with additional questions about the safety of root canal treatment and pregnancy.

We hope you feel assured to learn that obstetricians and dental experts generally consider root canal treatments to be safe during pregnancy. If you have an inflamed or infected tooth that needs a root canal, in most situations, having treatment prevents future symptoms and stress to your growing baby.

In an ideal world, every pregnant woman would have had an exam, cleaning, and any necessary treatment before conception. Pregnancy causes women to be more vulnerable to dental issues due to a combination of factors. Changes in hormones can contribute to the need for dental treatment.

Since each pregnancy is different, it is important to inform all your medical providers about your pregnancy and how many weeks along you are. This open communication between you and your health providers enables them to make the best recommendations for your needs during each trimester. 

It is also important not to use this article (or any other) as a substitute for personalized medical advice. We want you to be well-informed so you can make the best choices for your growing family, in tandem with a medical professional.

A Few Key Considerations For Root Canal Treatment and Pregnancy

At Ballantyne Endodontics, we have a very high treatment success rate. We want to assure you that the vast majority of our root canal patients are thrilled with their procedures and their overall experience with our team. Despite any negative connotations that may exist, a successful root canal alleviates and prevents future pain, infection, and inflammation. It also allows many patients to keep their natural teeth.

Our pregnant patients often ask about the safety of the procedure itself, the necessity of dental X-rays, and possible pain management options. 

Concerns About Dental X-Rays

In most instances, before any root canal procedure, your endodontist will need to X-ray the infected tooth to see the extent of the infection. This is one of the most common concerns shared with us since nearly every mom-to-be prefers to avoid X-rays. It may help to read what the experts say.

The American Pregnancy Association states that pregnant women should avoid any non-essential X-rays. At our office, we minimize the use of X-rays as much as possible. Our doctors are happy to discuss any concerns in-depth during your evaluation. We want to assure you that over the past dozen years in practice, we have taken excellent care of hundreds of women throughout their pregnancy journeys.

When an X-ray is medically necessary, The American College of Radiology recommends using modern shielding techniques to limit the exposure from a dental X-ray to the tooth and to help ensure no harm to the developing fetus. Dentists typically use a double shielding technique in this situation, which means they layer multiple lead vests to provide even more protection for you and the baby. 

Friendly reminder: please be sure to let your medical or dental providers know if you are (or even might be) pregnant so they can make appropriate modifications and suggestions. There is nothing we care more about than your safety!

Timing Your Root Canal During Pregnancy

Once you have been referred by a general dentist or are becoming symptomatic, go ahead and schedule your examination and consultation. Depending on your individual circumstance, your endodontist may discuss the timing of your procedure.

You may feel assured to know that, according to the Mayo Clinic, a root canal, or most dental treatments, may happen at any time during pregnancy. However, they recommend scheduling “elective” dental procedures for the second trimester, specifically, weeks 14 through 20, if possible.

This is because there is so much rapid development happening during the first trimester. It is safer to wait for treatment, if you are able, until passing that milestone. During the third trimester, you may feel less comfortable laying back in a dental chair – or anywhere!

However, if you are suffering from pain and facial swelling, you may need immediate care regardless of the trimester. The risk of an untreated infection outweighs the minimal risks associated with root canal therapy.

Anesthesia and Pain Medicine During Pregnancy

The next common question expectant mothers ask regarding root canal treatment and pregnancy is about the safety of anesthesia and pain medication. 

Thankfully, the American Dental Association says that local anesthesia does not pose a risk to a developing fetus. They recommend local anesthetics with epinephrine such as Bupivacaine, Lidocaine, and Mepivacaine.

The American Pregnancy Association recommends using as little anesthesia as possible, but still using enough to provide a comfortable level of pain relief.

Also, dental procedures like a root canal may require the use of antibiotics to prevent or treat an active infection. If that applies to your case, your dental professional will follow the current standard regarding which specific antibiotics are appropriate and their correct dosage. Most antibiotics like Amoxicillin are perfectly fine to use during pregnancy, but be sure to carefully follow each instruction to a T and reach out to the provider if any questions arise.

In more severe instances, patients may prefer to utilize pain management for a few days after their root canal therapy. While pregnant, ibuprofen and Advil must be avoided. You will want to stick with acetaminophen based medications like Tylenol. Be sure to discuss this with your dental professional since the correct dosage and medication vary depending on how far along you are, as well as individual concerns.

We hope this answers some of your questions and assuages any concerns you may be having about root canal treatment and pregnancy!

Tips For Any Dental Procedure During Pregnancy

The American Pregnancy Association offers tips and guidance for dental care during pregnancy.

First, prevention is the best medicine. They recommend following the American Dental Association’s recommendations: 

  • Eat a balanced diet low in sugar. 
  • Brush twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss daily.
  • Stick to your regular schedule of dental examinations and professional cleanings. Please let your dentist know that you are pregnant.

While at the dentist or endodontist office, keep your legs uncrossed for the best circulation. Feel free to bring a pillow for your comfort.

If possible, schedule non-emergency procedures during the second trimester. If something is purely elective, like tooth whitening, schedule it after you deliver. However, with appropriate precautions, there is no need to procrastinate on routine care and emergency dental care.

If You Need a Root Canal During Pregnancy

If you have any other questions about root canal treatment and pregnancy, don’t hesitate to reach out to your dentist or endodontist. At Ballantyne Endodontics, we understand that pregnancy can be a stressful time. If you find yourself pregnant and in need of root canal therapy, you can be assured that we will keep you as comfortable and safe as possible.

We have been privileged to help Charlotte-area residents keep their natural teeth while living with less pain. If you are in the area and need a root canal, please contact Ballantyne Endodontics or ask your dentist for a referral.