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Biden postpones NATO leader meeting after root canal treatment

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By Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden postponed a meeting with the head of NATO and skipped his other public events on Monday to undergo his second root canal procedure in as many days, the White House said.

“The president is doing just fine and he will be certainly working in the residence this afternoon,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said following the treatment at the White House.

Biden reported tooth pain on Sunday, prompting an X-ray examination and root canal treatment by a team from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, according to a letter from his physician that was distributed to the press.

“The President tolerated the procedure well,” the physician, Kevin O’Connor, wrote about the previously undisclosed treatment. “There were no complications.”

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 of the U.S. Constitution, the White House said.

Root canal procedures are common to treat infected teeth that cause pain, especially for older adults, said Asgeir Sigurdsson, endodontics chair at New York University’s College of Dentistry. Millions are performed each year in the United States with a near-universal rate of success, he said.

Two or more procedures are sometimes required to remove damaged tooth tissues and fully resolve the issue, Sigurdsson said. Local anesthetics used to numb pain during the procedure can make it difficult to speak for a few hours afterwards.

“Once you treat it properly, it will heal without any complications,” said Sigurdsson.

Biden previously underwent root canal procedures in the 1990s, as a senator overseeing the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for now Justice Clarence Thomas.

Biden is the oldest person to serve as U.S. president and both his age and health have been a focus of voters as he plans to seek a second, four-year term in the 2024 election.

NATO LEADER SEARCH HEATS UP

A meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and a reception for diplomatic personnel were rescheduled for Tuesday. An event celebrating college athletes was attended by Harris, who made no mention of Biden’s absence.

U.S.-led NATO’s search for Stoltenberg’s successor was heating up with several potential candidates emerging from Europe as the military alliance supports Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, in its response to Russia’s invasion.

Biden has not yet made a choice known, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Stoltenberg is due to step down at the end of September after nine years in the post.

Any new NATO leader needs to balance unified member support for Ukraine while guarding against any developments that would draw the group directly into a war with Russia.

NATO’s secretaries general are generally appointed through a consensus-oriented process, involving all of the group’s 31 members. The United States exercises outsize influence in all NATO’s decisions, putting special attention on Biden’s views.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by Tyler Clifford and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)

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