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Teeth have a central core of blood vessels and nerve supply, in a space called the root canal. In health, this provides vitality to the tooth.
Very deep decay or injury to a tooth can result in the nerve within the tooth dying off in time. A 'dead' tooth is prone to infection, which in turn may lead to an abscess which can cause pain and swelling around the tooth. The root canal needs to be cleaned and disinfected thoroughly before any restoration work is done.
Root fillings should not feel any different to having any other filling.
Disinfectant and thin instruments are used to remove bacteria and dead cells from the root canal. There can be more than one root canal in each tooth and they all need to be cleaned out in this way. Afterwards, placing a temporary filling into the root canal to prevent re-infection seals the tooth. Once your dentist is happy that the infection has gone, a filling or crown is placed on top of the tooth to prevent the tooth from fracturing.
Root fillings are complicated and more than one appointment may be necessary.