Once you find out that you have tooth decay, it’s important to take the next steps promptly to prevent any further decay and the issues that may come with it. If your dentist has recommended a root canal, you’re probably curious as to why. What’s the difference between a filling and a root canal?

What is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay, also known as cavities or tooth caries, is what happens when small holes form on the outer layer of a tooth, called the enamel, allowing bacteria to enter into the inner layers of the tooth. Tooth decay can cause a great deal of discomfort if left untreated, and if it reaches the innermost layer, the root or pulp of the tooth, can lead to tooth loss.

What Treatment Looks Like

When you make an appointment with your dentist, they will likely ask about any symptoms or visible signs that concern you and do a thorough exam of the affected area. They may also need to do x-rays to view the inside and structure of the tooth and jaw in case the decay has progressed deeper than what is visible from the surface.

If your dentist notices signs of tooth decay, they will recommend a filling or a root canal. The difference between a filling and a root canal depends on how deep the decay has reached so how much removal of decay and how much repair needs to be done. If your dentist recommends a root canal, they may refer you to an endodontist who specializes in root canals and the treatment of tooth or mouth pain.

Before the procedure, your dentist or endodontist will numb the affected area, then proceed to remove any decay and replace it with the filling material of your choice, typically either silver amalgam or a tooth-colored composite, or a crown if a root canal has been performed.

When to Call Your Dentist

You should call your dentist as soon as possible if you experience any symptoms that point to tooth decay, such as increased sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, pain in the mouth or jaw, visible holes on the surface of the teeth or discoloration of a tooth. It’s also important to visit your dentist regularly, usually every 6 months, for a thorough exam to help spot and treat tooth decay early before it becomes serious enough to cause symptoms or spread infection. The difference between a filling and a root canal may be how early it is treated, so always reach out to your dentist at the first sign of any concern.

Call our Lee's Summit dental office to make an appointment with a dentist who may be able to help you find out more about this topic, and improve your oral health.