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Dentistry/burned tongue from bleach during root canal


I just had my first root canal at a well-known dental school. I noticed when the dentist (periodontist in grad school) put in the bleach, it burned my mouth, and was not drained out. It just dribbled down my throat. My mouth was so full of the dental dam and such, I could not say much. I didn't know it wasn't supposed to be in touch with my mouth or that it is basically household bleach. I was so numb, I didn't notice any real pain.

The next day I was sore, and then worse. I noticed that side of my tongue and under it were white, and looked chewed. I thought it was a big blister, poked it--it was dead skin and just raw meat, dripping blood under it. It hurt too much to do anything. I tried all week to call and could not get through the switchboard. He also wrote the measly 12 pain pill script wrong so I didn't have that, and no antibiotics although I requested them. I thought maybe even it was an allergy but now it sounds as though it was the bleach. It is a horrible, incredibly painful burn. I can't eat solids. My throat is sore, too. Now, the tooth seems to be going bad.

I went back today. He had another guy also look. All they did was take photos, and tried to tell me it must be an allergy although I asked about the bleach. They offered nothing, said just swish with saline. I am really concerned. My tongue is very dark angry red in some spots. I have no insurance to see an ENT, which is what I think I should do. Any suggestions as to remedies?

Hi Roxan,

I am SO sorry you are going through all this. It's a very difficult thin g to deal with. Unfortunately, there is really no quick fix and antibiotics really won't help here since this is really more like a burn rather than a bacterial infection. Swishing with saline will help promote healing but doesn't do much for for discomfort.

I would suggest that you try to get some pain medication to help you through this. Perhaps there is an emergency department at the dental school or they might have some other after hours emergency service. To help with your difficulty eating, they make an over the counter mouth rinse that has some local anesthetic in it. G.U.M. is one of the brands, but there are several to chose from. If you use before trying to eat, it will certainly help. The long term solution is just time to heal and everyone heals at a different rate. Usually, there will be good improvement in 3-4 days and good healing in 7-10 days.

Sorry for the sort of bad news, but these situations just take time to heal.

Gary Backlund DMD, MSD


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Gary Backlund, DMD, MSD


I am an Endodontist ( root canal specialist ) and can answer questions about root canals and their treatment. I cannot diagnose or treat online, but can answer general questions. I have been a specialist for 25 years and am Past President of the Washington State Association of Endodontists.


25 years practicing as a specialist

American Association of Endodonists, Past President Washington State Association of Endodontists.

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