What Happens If You Need a Root Canal During Pregnancy?

Posted on: 21 November 2022


The majority of elective dental procedures (including teeth whitening and most forms of cosmetic dentistry) are unwise during pregnancy and should be delayed until after you've given birth. The same can be said for oral surgery, such as wisdom teeth removal, or receiving a dental implant. Essential dental treatment can (and should) continue throughout pregnancy. You must keep attending your dental checkups, and can receive general treatment as needed, such as having a cavity filled. But what about when you need something a little more intensive, like a root canal?

Essential Dental Treatment

There's no doubt about whether or not a root canal is essential. Most patients would agree, as the infected dental nerve that triggered the need for the procedure can be extremely uncomfortable. But because the procedure is somewhat invasive (your dentist must open the tooth and extract its infected nerve), you may be wondering if it's safe to undergo this treatment during pregnancy. Sure, you want to restore your tooth to full health, but not if there's a chance that root canal treatment could endanger the health of your unborn baby. 

Dangers of Waiting

Delaying root canal treatment can be risky. The tooth's nerve is infected, and while the infection is, for the moment, isolated, it has the potential to spread to surrounding tissues. This would put an increased strain on your immune system, and the required treatment would be far more invasive. There's also the significant fact that pain from the infected tooth will worsen to the point where it's intolerable. Pregnant or not, you need a root canal.

Safe During Pregnancy

Fortunately, root canals are safe during pregnancy. However, it's vital to inform your dentist that you're pregnant, whether or not you're showing. This allows them to modify their approach as needed—not that any major changes will be needed. Your dentist will generally require an x-ray, but remember that this is an oral x-ray (and a crucial one too), so won't be directed at your abdomen. You may request abdominal shielding (a lead apron) if needed. The choice of local anesthetic will also be relevant, and your dentist will choose one that won't constrict any blood vessels, which is healthier for a pregnant body.

Your dentist will quickly and comfortably remove your tooth's infected nerve, and the tooth will then be finished with a filling, and sometimes also a dental crown. The process is smooth and minimally invasive, and pregnancy shouldn't cause you to delay this essential dental treatment.