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Dentistry/arsenic use in root canal treatment and breastfeeding mums



I gave birth five weeks ago and apparently broke a tooth during the labour. (There had been a crack in the tooth but was only partially treated pending my delivery.) I went back to my dentist last night and he treated the tooth with arsenic to kill the nerve. Is this practice actually acceptable in today's world of dentistry? (I live in Jakarta, Indonesia, and it can be hard to know what's acceptable and what's obsolete here.) Also, I'm breastfeeding -- my dentist knows this and said that the arsenic was safe and won't leak into the milk. My ob-gyn, however, disagrees and told me not to breasfeed for five days. To be safe, my baby is on formula milk for the next five days, but it breaks my heart. Is arsenic use actually safe -- especially for nursing mums?

Thank you.

Hi Rani,

I'm sorry you're going through all this, especially when you should be enjoying your newborn right now! We have not used arsenic in the US for ages. At one time it was popular, but that was a LONG time ago. I have never even seen it in a dental form and I have been practicing for over 40 years. Needless to say, it is no longer acceptable for use in dentistry.

Unfortunately, I also don't have any real knowledge about how safe it is for breast feeding either. I would suggest that you try to find another dentist, hopefully an endodontist, to complete your treatment. It's hard to know what other out dated techniques might in store.

Sorry for the bad news, but good for you to be cautious and inquisitive!

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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