I was supposed to get my teeth whitened in March, but after my last dental exam, my new dentist said that I need a root canal first. This dentist won’t do the whitening unless I get a root canal. I am thinking about getting teeth whitening elsewhere and worrying about a root canal later. I’ve had a recent dental cleaning, and I think I can find someone to whiten my teeth. How long can I delay the root canal? Thank you. Abena from CT
Our upfront response is that it is not worth it to compromise your oral health for white teeth. Without Dr. Szarek examining your tooth, surrounding gum tissue, and x-ray, we cannot give an accurate diagnosis. But we can give you a few facts.
How Long Can You Delay Root Canal Treatment?
If your tooth is not hurting and has not hurt for a long time, you may be able to delay root canal treatment—but not without risks.
Signs and symptoms to watch for
Although it may not be an emergency, these issues need root canal treatment to prevent a tooth infection from spreading.
- Pain – An active infection is getting worse
- Drainage in your mouth – Fluid from the infection can affect other areas
- Pimple in your gums near the root tip – The infection has spread to the tooth and can affect your jawbone
Risks of Delaying Root Canal Treatment
Risks of delaying root canal treatment include an abscess, external resorption, and an infection that spreads to other parts of your body.
- Abscess – A pus sac can form at the tip of the tooth roots, become painful, and provoke a dental emergency
- External resorption – The infection will slowly eat away at your tooth roots and destroy the tooth. You will need an extraction and a dental implant.
- Infection spreads – Your jawbone, neck, head, and bloodstream may become targets of the infection as it spreads. And the infection can become life threatening.
What You Should Know About Root Canal Treatment
Most people delay root canal treatment due to anxiety or fear of a painful procedure. But a skilled dentist makes the treatment painless and comfortable by numbing your tooth before the procedure and helping you relax with dental sedation.
What About Bleaching Your Teeth?
Depending on the condition of the tooth that needs root canal treatment, bleaching gel can irritate it. It is best not to take the risk. Although root canal treatment might not be an emergency now, it can become one if the teeth whitening process irritates your tooth.
Michael Szarek, DMD, an accredited cosmetic dentist in Lowell, MA, sponsors this post.