Is Safe to Get a Root Canal While Your Pregnant? Expert Advice

Is Safe to Get a Root Canal While Your Pregnant? Expert Advice
profile picture of Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
Is Safe to Get a Root Canal While Your Pregnant? Expert AdviceClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
Last Modified:

Clinical content featured by Byte is reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to help ensure clinical accuracy.

We follow strict sourcing guidelines and each page contains a full list of sources for complete transparency.

Table of Contents

  1. Is It Safe to Get a Root Canal While Pregnant?
  2. When Is The Best Time?
  3. Potential Dangers
  4. What Are the Dangers of Skipping a Root Canal?
  5. References

Pre-conception care, which includes dental checkups and treatments, is essential for optimal pregnancy outcomes. That said, some dental issues might never surface until you’re pregnant, even if you’ve had previous checkups.

Being expectant typically reduces your overall immunity and predisposes you to various medical conditions, and those include issues with your gum and teeth.

But what’s the risk of having dental procedures when you’re pregnant? While some expectant mothers might skip dental work because of concerns about their developing fetus, the ADA reports that doctors can carry out preventive, diagnostic and rehabilitative oral health care procedures safely at any stage of pregnancy.

Some areas of practice, such as local anesthetics, have raised concerns among patients and health care providers over the years. Recent evidence shows you can undergo dental treatment involving anesthetic use without significant teratogenic risk.

Is It Safe to Get a Root Canal While Pregnant?

Your dentist will recommend a root canal treatment (RCT) to prevent your teeth from getting a severe infection such as an abscess. RCT is generally safe, but extra caution is necessary since we’re dealing with two vulnerable lives in pregnancy.

Most pregnant women who need a root canal have several concerns. First, the procedure might cause undue stress to both the mother and fetus just because of the anxiety-inducing nature of the process. In addition, medications and other types of therapy can also affect the growing baby.

While the risk of harming the fetus might be low, some obstetricians advise patients to postpone RCT until after delivery. However, the American Dental Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agree that delaying the treatment might result in many complex health issues and recommend performing root canal at all stages of pregnancy.

Depending on your gestational progress, your dentist will take the necessary precautions during the procedure to protect your baby. Having a root canal is safer than the possible complications that might result if no treatment is administered.

When Is the Best Time During a Pregnancy to Have RCT?

Although professional bodies recommend having a root canal at any time of pregnancy, some stages are ideal as the risk to the fetus or mother is lower. For instance, root canal should be postponed in the first trimester because fetal organs form in this stage, and the drugs used might cause abnormal development.

On the other hand, lying on the back can be pretty uncomfortable in the later stages of pregnancy. That’s why a root canal in the third trimester is not ideal unless the tooth infection warrants emergency management.

Thus, the second trimester remains the most suitable time for having root canal treatment. The risk to the fetus is negligible, and the mother will be relatively comfortable.

Potential Dangers of Root Canal Procedure

Generally, root canal treatment is safe. But some potential dangers that usually raise concern include:

Dental X-rays

Exposure to any form of radiation can affect your baby. Therefore, the American Pregnancy Association recommends postponing non-essential dental x-rays, including those performed during annual exams. However, diagnosing tooth infection in cases that require a root canal is impossible without an intraoral X-ray.

The APA agrees with the American College of Radiology that a single radiation dose of diagnostic x-ray cannot harm the developing embryo. Nevertheless, you need appropriate shielding during the procedure to ensure your unborn baby is safe.

Any time you visit a dentist, notify the office staff that you’re pregnant, and they will take the necessary precautions to protect your fetus to the fullest extent during the X-ray.

Anesthesia

Lidocaine, Bupivacaine and Mepivacaine are local anesthetics used in combination with epinephrine during various dental works. Lidocaine, the most commonly used anesthetic, does not cross the placenta and has minimal risk of affecting the fetus. FDA classifies lidocaine as category B, and together with other anesthetic agents, they are safe to use during pregnancy. You should not worry about the effect of anesthesia on your baby.

Other medications

According to the American Pregnancy Association, an expectant mother should have minimal exposure to drugs. But in case of dental emergency procedures such as root canals that cause considerable pain, analgesics are recommended. Antibiotics such as clindamycin and amoxicillin might also be prescribed before or after the procedure to treat or prevent infections, respectively. You can discuss with your doctor the medications that will not put your baby at risk. Category B drugs are generally safe to use in pregnancy.

What Are the Dangers of Skipping a Root Canal?

If an expert advises you to go for root canal treatment, postponing the procedure might lead to serious complications. RCT usually prevents tooth infections from progressing to severe abscesses that can adversely affect the fetus and you.

Some of the dangers of failing to have a root canal when indicated include:

  • Pain. An untreated infected tooth will continue to ache and even cause headaches. Unless RCT is done, the unbearable pain inflicts stress on both the mother and fetus, leading to improper development in some cases.
  • Severe infection. Without treatment, the tooth infection worsens to cause either local abscess in the mouth or systemic disease that will eventually affect the fetus. Premature labor and preterm birth are the sequelae of severe infection in pregnancy.

While a root canal is relatively safe, the experience is not fun at all. RCT can cause considerable stress to you and your unborn baby because of the associated pain. However, modern techniques ensure that you get the tooth infection treated pain-free. With your doctor’s guidance, you no longer need to skip root canal when indicated.

For pregnant women to avoid the stress of root canal treatment, ADA recommends optimal oral care that entails eating a balanced diet, brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and regular flossing. Preventive exams and cleanings are also recommended during pregnancy, as they pose no risk to the fetus and promote the mother’s oral health.

References

Pregnancy and Dental Work: Is Having Dental Work While Pregnant Safe? (2021) American Dental Pregnancy Association.

Pregnancy outcome after in utero exposure to local anesthetics as part of dental treatment (https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(15)00433-X/fulltext). (April 2015). Journal of the American Dental Association.

The World of Oral Health Report 2003: continuous improvement of oral health in the 21st century – the approach of the WHO Global Oral Health Programme. (December 31, 2002). Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

TOP