WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden postponed a meeting with the NATO chief and skipped his other public events on Monday to undergo a second root canal in as many days, the White House said.
“The president is fine and will certainly be working at his residence this afternoon,” press secretary Karen Jean-Pierre said after treatment at the White House.
Biden reported a toothache Sunday, prompting a team from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to perform an X-ray and root canal treatment, according to a letter from his doctor circulated to the press.
“The president tolerated the procedure very well,” doctor Kevin O’Connor wrote of the previously undisclosed treatment. “There were no complications.”
The White House said Biden, 80, experienced more pain on Monday, received local anesthesia and did not need to transfer his powers to Vice President Kamala Harris under the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution.
Biden’s wife, First Lady Jill Biden, commented on the procedure at a New York campaign fundraiser, saying she went to the White House dentist’s office to check on Biden and “he was under sedation. But he came in and he was fine.”
Asked to elaborate on her remarks, a White House official said Biden simply underwent local anesthesia for the procedure.
Root canal procedures are popular for treating infected teeth that are causing pain, especially for older people, said Asgir Sigurdsson, MD, chief of endodontics at the New York University School of Dentistry. He said that performances by millions are staged each year in the United States with a near-universal success rate.
Sigurdsson said that sometimes two or more procedures are required to remove damaged tooth tissue and fully resolve the problem. The local anesthesia used to numb the pain during the procedure can make it difficult to speak for a few hours afterward.
“Once you treat it properly, it will heal without any complications,” Sigurdsson said.
Biden previously underwent root canal procedures in the 1990s, as a senator overseeing Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas.
Biden is the oldest person to serve as president of the United States, and both his age and health have been a focus of voters as he seeks a second four-year term in the 2024 election.
Heating up the search for NATO leaders
A meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and a reception for diplomatic staff have been rescheduled for Tuesday. Harris attended an event celebrating college athletes, and made no mention of Biden’s absence.
The US-led NATO search for a successor to Stoltenberg has been heating up with several potential candidates from Europe as the military alliance supports Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, in its response to the Russian invasion.
Biden has not yet identified a known option, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Stoltenberg is due to step down at the end of September after nine years in the job.
Any new NATO leader needs to balance members’ unified support for Ukraine while guarding against any developments that could send the group directly into war with Russia.
NATO’s general secretaries are generally appointed through a consensus-oriented process, involving all 31 members of the group. The United States exercises enormous influence in all NATO decisions, with particular regard to Biden’s views.
(Reporting by Trevor Honeycutt). Additional reporting by Tyler Clifford and Doina Chiacou in Washington and Nupur Ananda in New York. Editing by Jonathan Otis, Grant McCall, and Leslie Adler
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