Blog Hero

Do I Need a Filling or Root Canal?

Book Now
A woman holds the side of her jaw due to tooth pain.

When it comes to dental procedures, fillings and root canals are two of the most common treatments for tooth decay and damage. They’re similar procedures, and your dentist can decide with a dental exam which one is best for you depending on the kind of damage to your tooth.

In many ways, a root canal is the next step above a filling. Root canals are needed when there’s damage to the tooth’s pulp, while fillings are performed when the pulp is at risk of being damaged but is still unharmed.

What is a Filling?

A filling is a dental procedure used to repair a tooth damaged by decay. The process involves removing the decayed portion of the tooth and then filling the area with a material such as composite resin, gold, or porcelain. Your choice of filling will depend on what you can afford and what look you prefer.

Fillings are a quick procedure, usually done in a single visit to the dentist. However, some more involved fillings, such as gold or porcelain, will need to be made in a lab after your dentist gets an impression of your teeth. They’re a standard treatment for cavities, which are small holes that form in the tooth due to tooth decay.

When Do I Need a Filling?

The only one who can tell you if you need a filling is a dentist. They can take x-rays and inspect your teeth for signs of a cavity, looking for holes or dark spots on your tooth. However, there are signs you might notice that could indicate you need a filling. These include:

  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
  • Pain when biting or chewing
  • Ongoing pain in the tooth
  • Visible holes on the tooth
  • A white or darker colour stain
  • Pain when consuming sugary or acidic foods

Smaller holes in your teeth might not present any of these symptoms, and you’ll feel no pain or discomfort at all. In this case, the best way to keep on top of your dental health is to have regular check-ups with your dentist.

What is a Root Canal?

What about root canals? A root canal is a procedure used to treat a tooth too damaged for a filling. This damage can happen when the pulp, the soft tissue inside the tooth containing nerves and blood vessels, becomes infected or inflamed. A deep cavity can cause this infection, and so can a crack or trauma in the tooth.

During a root canal, your dentist will remove the infected or inflamed pulp, clean the inside of the tooth, and then fill it with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. A filling or a crown then seals the tooth. Root canals are typically more involved and may require multiple visits to the dentist.

Your tooth will likely be tender for the first week or 2, but there shouldn’t be any swelling. If you do notice swelling, you’ll want to tell your dentist as soon as possible.

Root canals are typically considered the most painful dental treatment. However, that’s not entirely true. In fact, studies found that only 17% of people would describe a root canal as their “most painful dental experience.”

Graphical cross section showing the six steps of a root canal procedure.

When Do I Need a Root Canal?

Much like a filling, your dentist can tell you if you need a root canal during a dental exam. However, tell your dentist if you notice any of these signs, as the sooner you get treatment for your tooth, the better its outcome will be.

  • Severe toothache or pain that can radiate to the jaw, neck, or ear
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures that persists after the stimulus is removed
  • Tenderness or swelling of the gums near the affected tooth
  • A chip or crack in your tooth
  • Your tooth feels looser
  • Discoloration or darkening of the affected tooth

Pain from damaged tooth pulp tends to be severe and last longer than teeth that have a cavity and just need a filling.

Signs Common to Both Conditions

You probably noticed that some of these signs are common to fillings and root canals. These signs can make it hard to tell what type of procedure you need without an expert check. You should bring any of these symptoms to a dentist to figure out what procedure you may need:

  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
  • Pain when biting or chewing
  • Visible holes or dark spots on the tooth
  • Pain when consuming sugary or acidic foods

Tooth pain is a common symptom of many dental issues. The type of pain you experience can help you tell what kind of procedure you may need. Pain requiring a root canal is typically more severe, lingering, and worsens when you touch your tooth or chew.

Preventing Tooth Decay

The best way to avoid needing a filling or a root canal is to brush and floss properly and frequently. A regular check-up with your dentist can also help catch or limit these problems once they occur.

Most experts recommend a dental exam once or twice a year. However, if you’re experiencing tooth pain or any other symptoms we mentioned earlier, you should book an appointment with your dentist sooner.

Finding a Dental Expert in Calgary

Preventing tooth problems is always easier than curing them. So rather than having to go through a filling or a root canal, let our expert team at Rockwood Dental take care of your smile. Book an appointment today!

Written by Rockwood Dental

At Rockwood Dental, our goal is to help you achieve the healthy and beautiful smile you’ve always dreamed of.

Our team is committed to providing a personalized dental experience from beginning to end. To do this, we offer a range of dental services, including preventative dental care, restorative dental care, and cosmetic dental care.

Rockwood Dental is located at #102, 1032 17th ave., between 9th and 10th Street SW in Calgary.

More Articles By Rockwood Dental

Visit Our Office

Rockwood Dental is located on 17th ave., between 9th and 10th Street SW. If you’re looking for parking, we offer free parking directly in front of our office.

Can’t find us? Give us a call!

Our Address

  • 102, 1032 17th Ave SW
  • Calgary, AB T2T 0A5

Contact Us

*We are open on alternate Saturdays

Book Now
instagram facebook facebook2 pinterest twitter google-plus google linkedin2 yelp youtube phone location calendar share2 link star-full star star-half chevron-right chevron-left chevron-down chevron-up envelope fax