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Have you suffered complications during root canal treatment due to a sodium hypochlorite spillage?

  • A blog discussing one of the painful complications of root canal treatment and what you should do if it happens to you.

    By Yasmine Qasim

Sodium hypochlorite is a bleaching agent which is a commonly used irrigant used when carrying out a root canal treatment. Complications can arise when a sodium hypochlorite spill or leakage occurs through the negligence of a dental practitioner.

What is root canal treatment and why is it needed?

Root canal treatment, or endodontics as it is technically known, is a dental procedure that is carried out to treat infection within the centre of the tooth (which is called the dental pulp). The tooth is made of the crown, which is the part of the tooth that is visible above the gum line. The tooth also has a root, which extends into the bone of the jaw and anchors the tooth in place. The dental pulp is the soft tissue at the centre. The pulp can get infected by bacteria, which can cause painful symptoms and eventually result in the death of the pulp.

If a bacterial infection exists in the pulp of the tooth, then the only available options are extraction or root canal treatment. A root canal treatment aims to remove the bacteria from the root canal system of the tooth.

During the treatment, the dental practitioner will remove the nerve and pulp from the tooth and thereafter clean, fill and seal the tooth. Assuming the treatment is carried out to a satisfactory standard, a tooth can survive for up to 15 years after root canal treatment.

Use of sodium hypochlorite in root canal treatment

Sodium hypochlorite is used to clean the clean the canals and pulp chamber of a tooth to dissolve the bacteria, prior to the “filling” and “sealing” stages. The use of sodium hypochlorite necessitates caution and careful handling. As it is a bleaching agent, there can be severe consequences if it comes into direct contact with a patient.

How a sodium hypochlorite spillage can occur:

  • A dentist may apply too much pressure to the syringe and the sodium hypochlorite is extruded beyond the root canal;
  • A dentist may inject the solution too rapidly causing a spillage;
  • Sodium hypochlorite can be forced out of a tooth into the surrounding tissue if the dentist has perforated the root;
  • A dentist may fail to adequately protect a patient by failing to use a rubber dam. This is a thin piece of rubber that should always be placed around the tooth that is being treated to prevent the ingress of bacteria into the canals or the inhalation of dental instruments, including sodium hypochlorite;
  • A dentist may fail to protect the patient’s eyes and clothing in case of sodium hypochlorite spillage occurs to minimise the damage to the patient.

Problems that occur from a sodium hypochlorite spillage:

  • Damage to eyes;
  • Chemical burns and tissue necrosis;
  • Facial nerve damage;
  • Upper airway obstruction;
  • Damage to skin;
  • Damage to clothing.

Our experience

As Dental Negligence Lawyers, we see many cases where a dentist has caused a sodium hypochlorite spill and this has resulted in a client experiencing unnecessary pain and suffering. As you will see from the above, unfortunately the consequences of a sodium hypochlorite spillage can be severe.

If you or a member of your family have suffered complications of root canal treatment due to a sodium hypochlorite spill and have suffered damage as a result, please contact the Dental Negligence Team, who would be happy to assist with your enquiry.


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Call 0800 051 8069

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