President Joe Biden underwent a dental root canal Monday with little public warning, forcing postponement of all scheduled events, including a meeting with the NATO secretary general.
The planned meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, as well as an evening diplomatic reception, “will be rescheduled for tomorrow,” the White House said.
Biden underwent the root canal on a premolar tooth in his lower right jaw, presidential physician Kevin C. O’Connor said in a statement.
Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the procedure was “successfully completed. The president is doing just fine and he’ll certainly be working in the residence this afternoon.”
Although the White House played down the episode, Biden is 80, the oldest person ever to be president. Scrutiny of his health is intense as he bids to win a second term in 2024, taking him to 86 by the time he would leave office.
The Stoltenberg meeting was set to follow White House talks last week with the prime ministers of allies Britain and Denmark, as Biden prepares for the NATO summit in Lithuania in July.
The Western alliance is heavily involved in assisting Ukraine to defend itself against Russian invasion, with all eyes now on the fate of a much-heralded Ukrainian offensive to liberate territory.
Another big issue for NATO to resolve is choosing a successor for Stoltenberg, whose mandate ends in October.
- Just ‘a regular thing’ -
O’Connor said Biden’s tooth issue began with pain on Sunday.
He was immediately examined by a team from the Walter Reed presidential hospital sent to the White House.
The team “was able to perform an examination, to include X-rays, in the White House Dental Operatory. They determined that endodontic treatment (root canal) was most appropriate. Initial root canal procedure was performed at the time, with a plan for specialized endodontal follow up in the near future,” O’Connor wrote.
The doctor said Biden “tolerated the procedure well. There were no complications.”
On Monday, the president said he was “experiencing further discomfort,” leading to the decision to complete the root canal, O’Connor said.
Because no public announcement was made of Sunday’s dental work, questions were raised Monday about whether something more serious had happened.
Jean-Pierre dismissed this, saying the operation was “nothing unusual” and that “millions of Americans go through this.”
She stressed that only a local anesthetic was used, meaning no need for invoking the 25th Amendment and temporarily passing presidential powers to Vice President Kamala Harris.
However, the dental intervention was a reminder of how medical issues can suddenly interrupt the administration’s rhythm.
Despite assurances that there had been no emergency, the root canal appeared clearly to be unplanned because of the need to postpone the two high-level meetings in the White House.
Biden’s appearance at a third event -- a celebration with university athletes -- was canceled less than an hour before it started, with Harris presiding instead.
Jean-Pierre said Harris herself found out Monday morning that she would take Biden’s place at the event for athletes.
However, “there’s nothing mysterious about it,” Jean-Pierre said. “It is a regular thing that many people go through.”
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