I've had 3 root canals in my life. Two were in 1991, when I was 23. They were the result of neglecting my teeth for years. The dentist was new, fresh out of dental school. But he must have done a good job because it is now two decades later and I've not had any problems.
Had another root canal in 2011. This one was necessary because a bridge failed and the underlying tooth decayed (#31.) I had to go to an endodontist for that one due to a bifurcated root. My general dentist said he didn't have the expertise and equipment to do it.
The endo was great...took THREE visits of about 1 1/4 hour each and cost a fortune, but he saved the tooth. Had to see a periodontist after that for a crown lengthening, then a new bridge from my general dentist.
To anyone facing their first root canal, I say try to relax. It's not torture. The worst part is having to keep your mouth open for so long. I experienced no pain at all during any of my root canals, and in the end it was worth it.
One more piece of advice...use the restroom before you get into the chair!!!
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