pregnant woman at dentist

Can You Have Root Canal Treatment When You’re Pregnant?

Team Root Canals

There’s an unfortunate myth that pregnant women should not get dental treatments. We’re not sure where it originated, but its effects aren’t just potentially harmful, they’re also painful. Imagine waiting nine months for a much-needed root canal! There’s no reason to suffer through dental pain when you’re expecting. Like most other dental treatments, root canals are perfectly safe during pregnancy. Here’s what you should know.

Getting X-Rays During Pregnancy

One of the reasons you may hesitate to schedule a root canal during pregnancy is because x-rays are required in order to map the root of the tooth before your procedure. It’s natural to be nervous about this, but the machines used for dental x-rays today emit much less radiation than they did in years past. Additionally, we use a lead apron to protect your abdomen and neck from radiation while x-rays are being taken. For this reason, the American Dental Association takes the position that dental x-rays during pregnancy are safe.

Scheduling a Root Canal While Pregnant

A root canal can be performed at any point during pregnancy, but the second trimester is ideal. By the second trimester, nausea should have subsided—the last thing you want to deal with when you have an overactive gag reflex is dental work! Once you reach your third trimester, you may be too uncomfortable to be in the dentist’s chair for an extended period of time. 

Of course, emergency root canals always seem to happen at the worst possible times. If you need to get a root canal when you’re still battling morning sickness or when you’re in your ninth month of pregnancy and your entire body hurts, we’ll make it work. You may think you can wait until your baby is born, but realistically, you’ll have a lot on your hands and you’ll be recovering from birth too—you should never put off the dental care you need. 

Another reason not to wait is that the infection in your tooth can enter your bloodstream, increasing your risk of pregnancy complications, including preterm birth. The risks of leaving your tooth untreated are far greater than the risks of getting a root canal.

Local Anesthesia and Pain Medication During Pregnancy

According to an article published by Giglio in 2009 titled, “Oral health care for the pregnant patient,” local anesthetics are relatively safe when administered properly and in the correct amount during pregnancy. The quantity of anesthetic agent administered could be a probable cause for concern among endodontists. This may be because of the uncertainty of the initial dose administered being ineffective in achieving anesthesia, thus requiring an additional anesthetic agent to make the patient feel more comfortable. Pain incurred during treatment may induce stress which could be more damaging to the fetus than the effect (s) of additional quantities of anesthetic agent. Most anesthetic agents contain the vasoconstrictor epinephrine which is a category C drug. This drug has been studied in amounts of up to 0.1 mg added to local anesthetics. 

In a study by Gurbet in 2005 titled, “Intrathecal epinephrine in combined spinal-epidural analgesia for labor,” they found no unusual side effects or complications following its use for epidural anesthesia during labor. It has been reported that the local anesthetic with epinephrine administered as an intravascular injection may, at least supposedly, cause a deficiency of uteroplacental blood flow. However, for a healthy pregnant patient, the 1:100,000 epinephrine concentration used in dentistry, administered by proper aspiration technique and limited to the minimal dose required, is safe according to Little and Falace in their textbook titled Dental Management of the Medically Compromised Patient. 

For additional information, read: Endodontic treatment of the pregnant patient.

After your root canal, you may experience some discomfort. Cold compresses are an effective treatment for this, and sticking with a diet of soft foods in the days after the root canal procedure can help prevent pain too. If you need medication for pain, ask your ob/gyn for their recommendation.

Schedule Your Root Canal

We hope we’ve alleviated your concerns about having root canal treatment when you’re pregnant. If you’re ready to schedule a visit, contact us at 405-285-5042 to make an appointment with Dr. Victoria Ball.