Reviewed by Dr. Gary Morris, DDS

One of the most common questions patients have when faced with dental decay or tooth damage is whether they need a root canal or a filling. While both treatments are essential to restore oral health, they address different issues and involve distinct dental procedures. 
In this blog post, we will discuss the difference between a root canal and a dental filling. We’ll also explain the procedures step-by-step and provide tips for prevention.

Key Takeaway

Root canals and fillings are common dental treatments for tooth decay or damage. A root canal removes infected pulp, while a dental filling addresses minor cavities. Both procedures restore oral health. The procedure performed is determined by the severity of the cavity and the condition of the tooth.

What Is a Root Canal?

A root canal is a treatment that involves removing the infected or inflamed pulp from the inside of the tooth. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. It can cause severe pain and discomfort when it becomes infected or damaged. 

A root canal procedure aims to save the natural tooth by cleaning out the infection and sealing the root canals to prevent future infections.

Symptoms That You May Need a Root Canal

  • Severe tooth pain, especially when biting or chewing.
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures that lingers.
  • Swelling and tenderness in nearby gums.
  • Tooth discoloration.
  • Persistent or recurring pimples on the gums.

If you experience any of these symptoms, visit your dentist as soon as possible. They will examine your teeth and determine if a root canal is necessary.

Situations Where You May Need a Root Canal

  • Deep cavities that have reached the pulp.
  • Cracked tooth syndrome.
  • Trauma to the tooth, such as from a sports injury.
  • Repeated dental procedures on the same tooth.

For more information, take our Dental Quiz: Do I Need a Root Canal?

Step-by-Step Root Canal Procedure

  1. Your dentist will take an x-ray to determine the extent of the damage and identify the affected tooth’s location.
  2. Local anesthesia is administered to numb the area and make you comfortable during the procedure.
  3. Using small instruments, your dentist will create an opening in the top of the tooth and remove the infected or damaged pulp.
  4. The inside of the tooth will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
  5. After cleaning the area, the root canals are sealed with gutta-percha, a rubber-like material, to prevent future infections.
  6. The final step involves the restoration of the tooth. Your dentist will choose between a traditional crown or a same-day crown depending on the condition of your tooth and your needs. Traditional crowns require two visits, one for preparation and another for placement. Same-day crowns are made in-house while the root canal is being performed. With same-day crowns, your permanent crown is placed on the same day as the root canal. 

To put your mind at ease before this procedure, read The Ultimate Guide: How To Relax Before a Root Canal.

What Is a Dental Filling?

A dental filling treats minor cavities caused by tooth decay. The dentist removes the decayed or damaged portion of the tooth and fills the gap with a restorative material like composite resin, ceramic, amalgam, or glass ionomer.  

Fillings address cavities, small cracks or fractures, and minor tooth damage caused by wear and tear.

Symptoms That You May Need a Filling

  • Visible pits or holes in your teeth.
  • Tooth sensitivity to sweet foods or drinks.
  • Pain when biting down on the affected tooth.

If you experience any of these symptoms, visit your dentist for an evaluation. They will determine whether a filling is necessary and recommend the best material for your needs.

Situations Where You May Need a Filling

  • Cavities caused by decay or plaque buildup.
  • Minor chips or cracks in teeth.
  • Worn-down tooth structure from grinding or clenching. 

Step-by-Step Dental Filling Procedure

  1. First, your dentist will numb the area around the affected tooth with local anesthesia to ensure you are comfortable during the procedure.
  2. Next, they will use a dental drill or laser to remove the decayed or damaged tooth structure.
  3. The cavity is then cleaned and prepared for the filling material.
  4. The filling material is applied and hardened with a special light.
  5. After the filling is placed, your dentist will shape and polish it to match your natural tooth’s appearance and function.

Prevention Tips for Root Canals and Fillings

It’s essential to maintain a proper oral hygiene routine to prevent the need for root canals or fillings. Here are some tips to keep your teeth healthy and avoid dental decay.

  1. Brush your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste.
  2. Floss at least once daily to remove plaque and debris between your teeth.
  3. Use mouthwash to help kill harmful bacteria.
  4. Limit acidic and sugary foods that can harm tooth enamel.
  5. Consider dental sealants, the thin protective coatings applied to back teeth to prevent decay.
  6. Wear a mouthguard during physical activities to protect your teeth from trauma.
  7. Attend regular dental checkups to catch signs of tooth decay early.

Morris Dental Solutions- Your Dentist in Buffalo Grove, IL

Root canals and fillings are essential dental treatments that aim to restore damaged teeth. While they address different issues, they both preserve the natural state of your teeth and promote oral health.

If you need a root canal or filling, trust the experts at Morris Dental Solutions. Our highly skilled dentists use cutting-edge technology and advanced techniques to provide you with the highest standard of dental care. We strive to make your experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible.  

If you are searching for a dentist in Buffalo Grove, IL, call (847) 215-1511 or complete the online booking form to book an appointment. We proudly serve the communities of Arlington Heights, Barrington, Long Grove, and Highland Park. 


How do you treat cracked tooth syndrome?

Cracked tooth syndrome can be treated with dental fillings, crowns, or root canals, depending on the severity and location of the crack. Consult with your dentist for the best treatment option.

Is a root canal painful?

Modern technology and anesthesia have made root canals less painful than they used to be. While there may be some discomfort during the procedure, it should subside once the infection is removed. Your dentist will also provide pain medication for any post-procedure discomfort.

Is it an emergency if a filling falls out?

If a filling falls out it’s important to contact your dentist promptly. While it is not an emergency, leaving the cavity unprotected can result in more decay and possible infection. Your dentist will advise on the best way to replace the filling.

If you are searching for ‘composite fillings near me’ or ‘root canal near me,’ contact Morris Dental Solutions.

Skip to content