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topic 44362

Accidentally Swallowing Sodium Hypochlorite during root canal

A discussion started in 2007 but continuing through 2019


Q. I was undergoing root canalling at a local dental center when due to the dentist delaying my request to throw out the liquid in my mouth, I accidentally swallowed the liquid. I almost choked by its pungent smell and even after a period of almost 5 months I keep getting this choking feeling. my voice has become heavy and I keep clearing my throat specially in the mornings to get rid of a seemingly film of something I am not sure, always present in my throat. A visit to the same dentist on two occasions and even an EMT specialist has not helped,who keep assuring that things should be ok soon. Can somebody advise an antidote or tell me what is wrong?

Poonam Kochhar
Teacher - Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India


A. Are you sure you swallowed sodium hypochlorite? This is normally sold as bleach and is a powerful oxidising agent. It is often fatal if swallowed in any concentration. If you did ingest it, I suggest you look up the MSDS for this material and seek the correct medical treatment.

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK


A. Sodium hypochlorite is routinely used to disinfect the canal during root canal surgery. It's used at a low concentration (maybe about 1%), and the amount used is tiny, less than 1 cc. It's hard to see how that tiny amount could cause a lasting problem.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
Spartanburg, South Carolina

A. Hi Poonam. Please see a doctor rather than asking for medical suggestions on the internet. 5 months is a long time, and it is possible that you have a serious medical problem that may or may not be related to the incident.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever


A. Sodium hypochlorite is the standard of care in root canal therapy. It is used to disinfect and dissolve infected tissue from the inside of the tooth once the pulp or nerve has been removed. The tooth being treated should be isolated from the rest of the mouth using a rubber/dental dam. This prevents liquids or instruments from going down the patients throat. Also, as the liquid is introduced into the tooth it should be suctioned up by the assistant before it can escape outside the tooth.
This chemical kills and dissolves tissue, so it is very possible you have tissue damage in your throat which may take time to regenerate. If the damage is too much it may not regenerate. I would consult another EMT and have them look with a scope to see what it going on.

Mauricio [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
DMD - Miami, Florida

2007 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

!! Last July 25th, 2007 I was at the dentist getting a tooth filled with a temporary filling before I get a root canal done, and the dental assistant did not put in the dental dam properly. When the dentist was cleaning out my tooth with the Sodium Hypochlorite, it leaked down into my throat, and I ingested it into my throat, tongue, and lungs. The dental assistant and the dentist took me to the ER which was located in the same dental clinic building, and they reassured the ER personnel that it wasn't that bad for me because they said the dentist didn't use very much of the sodium hypochlorite. But in fact, I sat there in the ER bed puking, coughing, and uncontrollably spitting into a bed pan for 4 hours. No one would do anything, and everyone insisted that there would be no permanent damage, but the burning sensation in my throat, tongue, and lungs was severe and I think the dental assistant and dentist downplayed the incident to cover their you know what. It has been a week since this happened, and my lungs feel like they're still damaged. It still hurts to take a deep breath in. Anyway, I would appreciate your feedback. Also, I found out that the dentist typically fills a syringe with about 5 ml. but uses only around 2 ml. to clean the tooth out. I think I may have ingested a lot, but I have no way to prove it, and the dentist kept telling everyone she didn't use that much, but I think she used more than she would admit. Thanks,

Audrey Swartzentruber
homemaker - Anchorage, Alaska

December 19, 2008

!! Did not realize there would be a follow-up on this. Great that this is public. So I tried to bring a lawsuit against the native health care problem, but no attorney here in Anchorage would agree to be my attorney. Should I bring more attention to this here in Anchorage, Alaska? What does it take to make Alaska lawmakers realize that our native people are overlooked? That the mistakes at Alaska natives' expense needs to be addressed?! My horrible experience was by a lovely older lady, my dental assistant. My point is there is not enough training for procedures that should be considered serious enough to be be surgery. And if you authorize your dental personnel on the dangers of the chemicals they have in their hands, you better be prepared because they hold your health and well being in their hands! Audrey Swartzentruber and I'm on myspace, equal rights.

To Jeffrey Holmes CEF Spartanburg, and all those that have experience with hazardous chemicals if you have any doubt that even a tiny bit of sodium chloride leaking thru the dental dam couldn't really be that bad, why don't you try it yourself? If anyone doubts me, or questions that it really couldn't have been that bad, they should try it out themselves. Of course be prepared to go to the ER. I had a horrible experience with the inexperience of a dental assistant, who carelessly let Sodium Chloride get past the dental dam YES SODIUM CHLORIDE, and then did nothing! Nothing! And I really want to hear back from anyone that works in the ER how such a situation should be handled? ABSOLUTELY no one would help me not even in the ER, they pulled the curtain around my bed and gave me a bedpan to puke into and clear my throat into. The Dental Assistant insisted to everyone in the ER that she didn't put that much in my tooth, but that's exactly my point. IT DOES NOT TAKE THAT MUCH TO INGEST AND HAVE PROBLEMS WITH! So what I really want to know is how the ER personnel could sit back and do nothing when they should have been flushing my mouth and throat out. I mean when this happens, does everyone just think it comes with dentistry or what? I mean I thought I was going to die from continuously hacking, coughing, and puking for 3 endless hours. If that's acceptable, I'm terrified of dental assistants, and the dentists. So, anyone who works the ER and has experience with this happening I would appreciate your input! Thanks.

Audrey Swartzentruber [returning]
- Anchorage, Alaska

December 21, 2008

A. Hi, Audrey. Very sorry for your troubles. Please feel welcome to continue to challenge anything that you consider inaccurate -- but we all work very hard to keep this site a pleasant place to visit, and if you attack another poster again the response will not be posted.

I am from the industrial metal finishing field, rather than dentistry, but it seems like it was probably sodium hypochlorite that you swallowed. You appear adamant that it was sodium chloride -- i.e., table salt. Hope you feel better.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever

January 12, 2009

!! I just had a root canal at a new dentist. He also did not use a dental dam and I accidentally swallowed some sodium hyochlorite. I knew this was what it was because I asked the assistant after the dentist left the room because I was choking so badly. He also said "it couldn't have been that much", but seriously, it must not take much of this to cause problems. It tasted like I just drank gasoline, and it still burns down my throat. It was horrible. It looks like the use of this product is causing some major problems and needs to be looked into. There has to be an alternative.

P Woodrow
- Dayton, Ohio

January 17, 2009

!! I feel your pain. I have been there, done that, and never want to go through that again. I know what everyone here has gone through because I, too, received a sodium hypochlorite burn after a root canal. During the procedure I felt a horrible/horrible pain followed by burning. I stopped the dentist, but he said the root canal had to progress and I asked what he did that gave me such pain. He said: "I don't know what you're talking about". The next 15 min. were pure hell until the procedure was over. Driving home, the pain was so intense that all I could do was cry. Words cannot describe the pain. My jaw hurt, my gums hurt, even my teeth in the quadrant where he worked were pounding.

By the time I got home my face on the side he worked on was swollen, red and warm, and the inside of my mouth was bleeding, and was very red and swollen. Talking about gums being red! I went to the Emergency Room and was admitted for one week with a sodium hypochlorite burn. I had three surgical procedures to the inside of my mouth to relieve abscesses which formed in the days following the burn. They did relieve some of the pressure, but the pockets of infection just keep filling up and they had to do a few of them until the pus started to clear up. I had CT scans, massive IV pain medications round the clock and then some, steroids, IV fluids, dental consults, etc., etc. Almost $10,000.00 later, I am left with facial numbness that I am told is here to stay from several neurologists. My face feels like it is still numb from dental anesthesia. I drool from the sides of my mouth and have to keep wiping my mouth. I bite the inside of my cheek constantly because it is numb. The same with the inside of my lower lip. The dentist never used a dental dam to prevent spillage of the needle contents when he irrigated the root canal out with sodium hypochlorite - regular HOUSE BLEACH! Yes, people, regular old bleach. If he would have told me he was going to put bleach in my mouth do you think I would have said yes to the root canal. Anybody having a root canal, go to an Endodontist. This is their job. They have the latest up to date treatment recommendations and doing endodontic procedures is their life. Keep the dentist to do the tooth fillings and cleanings. Most importantly, do not let them use SODIUM HYPOCHLORITE. hydrogen peroxide [linked by editor to product info at Amazon] can also be used and isn't as caustic. Talk to anybody who says they are going to use this and tell them you know about sodium hypochlorite and you better not get burned. Always demand the use of a dental dam. Better yet, know your dentist and make sure of his qualifications, but have the root canals performed by an endodontist. Same amount of money, only you're getting the expert.

P.S. I would love to talk to the previous members who have had sodium hypochlorite "accidents" and have written here.

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." -- Helen Keller

Patsy Cline
- Westminster, Maryland United States

September 9, 2009

A. It's like Chinese whispers...

I will clarify some of the issues here albeit too late.

1) sodium chloride aka salt is er ... salt.
2) sodium chlorite is a bleaching agent.
3) sodium hypochlorite more effective then chlorite and is used for disinfection and dissolving of root canals for dentistry although Chlorhexidine gluconate is more tolerable when swallowed.
From Dr. Spillers dentistry website (More recently, dentists have begun using a 2% solution of chlorhexidine instead of bleach as an irrigating solution. Chlorhexidine is a powerful disinfectant and is not as caustic or as objectionable if it happens to get under the rubber dam)

Going up the scale we then have sodium chlorate and then sodium perchlorate and you don't want to know what they can do...

I would say certainly that the bleach was definitely responsible for the damage reports listed and today I suffered from the same thing during my upper rear tooth root canal. I jumped off the chair....I was coughing, nearly vomiting, no blood though, but the burning at the back of my mouth .... choking, couldn't swallow, very strong swimming pool smell. I don't wish even THAT dose (probably about 0.3 milliliters) on anyone. I am going to make an official complaint ASAP, so that others may not have to suffer that.

Andy Smith
- Southend, Essex, England

August 31, 2010

!! I just had the experience of having my throat burned by sodium hypochlorite during a root canal. I was choking, gagging and fighting to breathe. I was also extremely sick in my stomach. Six hours later my throat still feels like it's on fire. I understand the importance of disinfecting the tooth, but this is actually worse than the pain from the root canal. The Dr. only offered me water. She felt bad, but offered no solution to my terrible discomfort. I'm going to do some research on this chemical used for this procedure. This should be banned.

Joy S.
- New Jersey

February 28, 2011

A. I wanted to thank others for sharing their stories on here because I had a similar experience during a root canal about a month ago and my endodontist hasn't fully explained what happened (I think she feels bad, and it was the dental hygienist who made the mistake) so this forum has been helpful. At the end of my root canal procedure about a month ago the hygienist applied too much disinfectant to the tooth and it seeped out into my gums and lungs--it felt like my throat was on fire. I put up my hands in pain and she thought the anesthesia was wearing off but the endodontist came in and told her my pain was coming from the disinfectant overflow and to keep rinsing it out until the pain subsided. They finished the procedure but on the way home my throat swelled up so much I couldn't swallow or breathe without crying. They put me on steroids and antibiotics. About a week later the swelling went down but deep bruising formed on the inside of my throat and started to show up on the OUTSIDE of my throat towards my chest (nowhere near the tooth). It is still there a month later and people keep asking me what happened. I agree that people need more training to use such dangerous material.

Asrida Warrington
- Boston, Massachusetts

August 10, 2011

Q. My Concern is: I went to Dentist for Root Canal, on the very 1st day Dentist did the Cleaning of my teeth & I don't know what chemical she has used and then I was feeling Pain in the Mouth. I talked to the same dentist regarding the same issue, she told me she used the Chemicals which has not suited you; that's a reason you have got a mouth ulcer and she has given me a Dologel (Dr. Reddy Product) and told me use this 6 times a daily in the infected area.
1. I just wanted to know if the dentist told me a truth or not?
2. Is this Dologel correct or not for this type of Infection?
3. Or do I need to consult any other doctor?
Please help.

Thank you

Manish Hariya
- Mumbai,Maharastra, India

Ed. note: Hi, Manish. This is a metal finishing site. In the metal finishing industry we work with certain chemicals like sodium hypochlorite, so questions arise about it. But, sorry, we know nothing about dentistry.
We never censor people who wish to voice their opinions, but it is important to recognize that semi-anonymous internet postings are completely non-authoritative. Please see another dentist. Good luck.

October 20, 2011

thumbs up signGosh!! Thanks for this post. I know exactly what you are talking about, but I never knew what the stuff is called. It's a God awful taste and smell, for sure. Wow, I can't imagine swallowing any. I'm not sure they would allow this substance to be used if it posed that much of a danger in small amounts. But, even in a small amount, that phrase "a little bit goes a long way" surely rings true with this material.

- Frederick, Maryland

June 19, 2012

Q. My dad recently went for a root canal treatment when the doctor accidentally left a part of the needle in his gums. The doctor did not care to inform us about this. After a few days of the treatment, my dad felt persistent pain, and also had fever for about 2 weeks with increase count of WBC due to some undetected infection. SO he went for an Xray where this needle was found. We consulted some other doctors after this and they said the needle cannot be removed. But the pain is still there and every few days my dad is detected with some temperature. Can someone please help me out of this?

Radhika Bhalotia
- Kolkata, WB, India

June 19, 2012

A. Hi Radhika.

I think you should seek a dentist you have more faith in, rather than asking people on the internet for advice.

You are calling it a needle, but since the dentist and other doctors say it can't be removed, are you sure it isn't the metal "post" the dentist puts in to hold the crown in? Again, I'm certainly no dentist, but I have had a number of root canals and all of them involved permanent metal posts in my teeth.

But sometimes the area does get infected and the post has to be removed and replaced, which I am aware of because my wife had that problem with an old crown just this month. Best of luck to your father!


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever

June 26, 2012

Q. I went to my dentist today to routinely have my teeth cleaned. Everything was fine for 5 minutes and the dental nurse collected saliva by the tube like they normally do. Then the tube they collect saliva with, pumped liquid into my mouth which tasted disgusting and actually felt like it burnt my tongue and gums, after this she proceeded to polish them. I have had the worst headache ever since. Does anyone know what the liquid is or could be?

Pauline James
- Hull, East Yorkshire, UK

September 9, 2012

A. About 17 years ago, I had a root canal done, and can still feel pain. The dentist was going to numb it some more and got the syringe with the bleach solution, used to rinse out the tooth during a root canal, and he injected it into my gums. It was so painful, and I continue to have problems from this!

Mary Grogan
- Atlanta, Texas USA

Ed. note: We don't censor people's feelings or opinions; that does not imply that we accept their assessment of what went on in the dentist's office; we have no idea :-)

September 26, 2012

Q. I was wondering if someone can please help me with this. I went to an endodontist for a re-treat treatment (needed to remove the broken file a dentist had left inside my root canal after performing a root canal). The problem was that the dental assistant/hygienist assisting the endodontist touched the side of my face next to the lip with the ultrasonic (I think it is called) and burned a little portion of my skin. It doesn't look like it's healing after 3 months or more. How can I go about filing a lawsuit against the assistant? (Do I need to also file a lawsuit against the endodontist?) It looks like I will have a scar for the rest of my life. Please help me. I paid a lot for this procedure and I still have 300 dollars left to pay. Should I pay them? Your help would be much appreciated. Thank you.

Patty Norman
- Sacramento, California, United States

September 26, 2012

A. Hi Patty. If you are seeking redress, go to your phone book and choose a "personal injury lawyer" (if the one on the back cover doesn't appeal to you). The law firm will be able to tell you whether you have a case or not.

It is a mistake to start this process on the internet! The first thing the lawyer may tell you is you shouldn't have mentioned the problem you had with the first dentist because it conveys the idea that you find all dentists incompetent rather than just the one you are suing; plus the 'broken file' might not be factually correct, which would weaken your case (the other side's lawyers will find your postings, Facebook notes, tweets, etc.)


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever

November 28, 2012

A. I will attempt to cover some of the issues discussed in this thread. As stated previously, sodium hypochlorite (or NaOCl) is a common irrigant used in root canal therapy. The irrigant can be diluted by adding water to bleach or can be used in its concentrate form (currently 6%). NaOCl is used to disinfect the canal and dissolve pulpal tissue (tissue inside the tooth) 2% chlorhexidine can also be used as an irrigant but it lacks the tissue dissolving characteristics of NaOCl, which may result in bacteria remaining in the canal and decreasing the chance of successful root canal therapy.
Each state/country has laws and "standard of care" guidelines that often dictate what is acceptable treatment and what is negligence. Within the US, performing root canal therapy without a rubber dam is negligence and below the standard of care. For patients allergic to latex the use of nitrile dams are indicated. Under no circumstances should root canal therapy be performed without a rubber dam. Neglecting to use a rubber dam can result in oral tissue being exposed to caustic material or endodontic files being swallowed or aspirated.
Patients should alert the dentist immediately if they taste NaOCl during the procedure; this should be followed by the dentist rinsing the patient's mouth with copious water and reassessing the patient afterwards. If the patient can continue without complications the procedure can continue. If the patient is uncomfortable, is experiencing pain or does not wish to proceed, the tooth should be closed and treatment stopped. In extreme cases the patient should be monitored and or referred for emergency care if indicated. Follow up with the dentist may also be indicated to re-exam the patient for complications.
Prior to treatment patients should have a full understanding of the treatment, materials used and who will be performing each procedure. Any questions or concerns should be discussed prior to treatment.
I hope this helps clarify some issues.

Matt H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Practicing Endodontist - Seattle, Washington, US

February 20, 2013

Q. It is great to know that other people have experienced what I went through today as my NEW dentist told me that it is not very common. The closer feeling I can put it down to was DEATH. I literally stopped breathing for 5 seconds while CHOKING, GAGGING and almost PASSING OUT after the dentist described as 'bleach accidentally going down my throat'. This is highly NOT normal and this substance should NOT be allowed in dentists. Thing is he wants me to go back there in a weeks time to put more BLEACH in the tooth to finish the procedure! Answer's PLEASE!!


Lauretta Gill
- New Zealand

July 23, 2013

A. I had a root canal today and I've swallowed sodium hypochlorite, my throat is sore. I'm not making a scene over it because IT'S NOT the dentist's fault. It's important that they use it and you've been unfortunate like me and swallowed it. If you've got a problem with it don't go back? Trying to take legal action is a little over the top. It's not medical negligence; trust me I know what medical negligence is.
If you've got a problem you should have confronted it with your dentist instead of bad mouthing them on here, especially when all they was doing was their job.
I know this post is old but I looked it up to see if it was normal and I come across this thread.

Rhee pops
- Manchester, Uk

July 2013

thumbs up signHi Rhee. You found no fault with your dentist and that's good. I too am very confident in my medical and dental caregivers. But that doesn't necessarily mean there are no dangerous and incompetent dentists out there, or that none of the posters have cause for complaint.

I once went to a shaky old dentist once who poked my cheek with the novocaine needle. When I flinched he told me it was deliberate ... which I strongly doubted later when I left his office with two cotton blocks still in my cheeks that he had forgotten. Like you suggest, I simply didn't go back :-)

Folks, let's all do our best to focus on education, technical issues, and camaraderie rather than letting other posters' attitudes get under our skin. Render under Facebook that which is Facebook's :-)


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever

January 31, 2014

opinion! Rhee Pops,
You comment that people should not make a big deal out of this ... Are you really saying it is okay for a dentist to almost kill you? This can be fatal as my throat did swell up so that I could not breathe. What happened to you obviously wasn't that extreme.

Lauretta Gill
- Auckland New Zealand

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