Having a root canal is not much fun. However, the symptoms of a needed root canal – tooth pain and sensitivity, swollen and bumpy gums, darkening tooth – are a lot less fun. Being pregnant adds a new element to the mix. However, being pregnant doesn't mean you have to suffer the symptoms and possible loss of a tooth. In fact, it's safe to get a root canal at any stage of pregnancy.
Root Canal Procedure
A root canal is necessary when the pulp of the tooth becomes infected, usually creating an abscess under the root. The procedure can be done in one or two visits, depending on the condition of your tooth. During the first stage of the procedure, the dentist numbs the area, isolates the tooth, and drills a hole in the top of the crown. The dentist then cleans out the pulp chamber and fills it with a biocompatible material before placing a filling to close the drilled hole. If your tooth's structural integrity in intact, that's the end of the procedure. However, your dentist may recommend a second visit to place a crown if your tooth has become weakened.
Local Anesthesia for Root Canals
If you've ever had a cavity filled, you've probably had some version of the local anesthetic used in root canals. According to Inside Dentistry, there's not a single formula used – rather it depends on a lot of factors. These include the anatomy of your tooth and jaw, pH factors, and inflammation in the target area. Nonetheless, typical anesthetics such as Lidocaine are effective for root canals. What's more, the endodontist should be able to completely minimize any pain by tailoring the formula and injection site to your needs.
Anesthesia and Pregnancy
The local anesthesia common in root canal procedures is safe for pregnant women, according to studies cited in Dentistry IQ. The USDA has created labels for drugs based on their safety for pregnant women. Category B anesthetics, which include lidocaine, haven't shown to be harmful to the fetus. There are some Category C anesthetics that can have an adverse effect on the fetus, though, so it's essential to talk to your dentist about your pregnancy.
An X-ray is necessary before your root canal procedure. However, the X-rays are aimed at the mouth, and the dentist will place a shield over your abdomen. Therefore, it's safe during pregnancy.
If your tooth pulp was especially infected, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics. Common root canal antibiotics include penicillin, amoxicillin, and clindamycin. These are labeled Category B drugs, so they're safe for pregnant women.
Concerning pain management, Parents Magazine recommends using a cold compress whenever possible. However, acetaminophen is also safe for pregnant women. Avoid aspirin and NSAIDS (such as ibuprofen), though.
The best advice for getting a root canal while pregnant is to talk to your dentist about your concerns.