Do I Need a Root Canal: A Helpful Guide

You have a toothache that just won’t quit. Maybe it’s sensitive to temperature, flares up when you chew certain foods, or bothers you constantly all day and night. You’d do just about anything to make it stop, but then the dreaded question crosses your mind: “Do I need a root canal?”

Even small cavities can be sensitive if they’re in the right spots, but if there’s enough damage beneath the surface, a root canal might be the best option. Keep reading to learn about the criteria for a root canal treatment and whether you should expect one in your future.

When Will a Filling Be Enough?

According to NIH research, a whopping 92% of adults in America will get at least one cavity in a permanent tooth during their lifetimes. When this decay is minor and doesn’t extend deep into the tooth’s internal structure, a filling is the best way to repair it.

The signs you might need a filling include:

  • a small dark spot on your tooth, often where two teeth touch or on the top of a molar
  • a hole or pit on your tooth that you can feel with your tongue
  • some sensitivity to temperature, especially when eating or drinking
  • mild toothache

Keep in mind that if you catch a cavity early enough, you might never notice any pain or discomfort from it.

When Do I Need a Root Canal?

For people with dental phobias, getting a root canal is one of the scariest things they can think of. But even though none of us want to go through it, this procedure is safe and relatively pain-free. It’s also far preferable to living with the pain of a broken or decayed tooth for years and can help you avoid implants or dentures.

So, how do you know if your tooth problem has passed beyond the realm of a filling or crown? Only your dentist can tell you for sure, but keep your eye out for these root canal symptoms:

  • tooth discoloration (patchy surface, dark or light spots, grey or dark yellow color)
  • extreme temperature sensitivity
  • swollen gums
  • pain when chewing, flossing, or brushing near the tooth
  • large cavities, chips, or cracks in the tooth
  • the affected permanent tooth is loose

All of these signs point toward damage or an infection in your tooth’s pulp. Pulp infections can spread and lead to tooth loss, so the best course of action is often to remove it completely and fill the area with dental cement via a root canal. This leaves the tooth without sensation but keeps it functional and in place.

If You Have Tooth Pain, Don’t Wait to See a Dentist

When your tooth starts to hurt, it’s easy to get nervous about what it will take to fix it. But instead of wasting time wondering “do I need a root canal?”, grab the phone and make an appointment with your dentist. Only then will you know for sure if you’ll need a root canal or if a filling will do the job.

Are you looking for more dental or health advice? If so, you’re in the right place. Keep reading through the other articles on our site to find everything you need.

Steffi Stark

Steffi is a freelance health blogger and is involved in writing fitness and health-related blogs for more than 5 years now. She is a certified health coach and even guides her audience with the healthy foods and recipes. In her writings, she involves news, the latest changes in the health industry, and fitness tips. She even informs her audience about celebrity fitness tips and goals through her writings.


  • Masters from University School of Medicine
  • Certified trainer

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