Common Oral Health Symptoms and How To Treat Them

Do you feel severe pain when you bite down on food or drink something cold? Have you noticed spots or discolouration on your teeth? Is your tooth cracked or chipped?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you will likely need to see a dentist for treatment. However, what treatment should you seek?

Root canals and fillings are two of the most common oral health procedures to treat tooth damage. Your dentist will decide which procedure to perform based on what kind of damage your tooth has faced. Keep reading to learn about the how the operation, symptoms, and preventive methods differ between root canals and fillings.

The Difference Between a Root Canal and a Filling

Tooth fillings and root canals are both procedures that your dentist can perform to save damaged teeth. They serve separate purposes and are performed differently.

A root canal is also known as endodontic therapy. This procedure should be performed when there is damage to the tooth’s pulp, which is a set of nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels within the tooth. A root canal is performed by removing the pulp in order to save the natural tooth. Dentists will normally put the patient under local anesthesia when performing a root canal.

A tooth filling, meanwhile, is performed when the tooth’s pulp has not been damaged, but it is at risk. During a filling, the dentist will clean out the tooth to remove any decay and fill the opening with dental filling. Composite resin is the material most often used to do this.

What is a Cavity?

Cavities are also known as tooth decay. They are often visible as small holes or brown marks on the surface of your teeth. Cavities can be caused by a handful of factors, including bacteria, infrequent or improper brushing, or too much sugar on the teeth’s surface. They are somewhat common and can be easily treated by visiting a dentist for a filling. However, cavities can worsen over time, and lead to pain, tooth loss, or even bacterial infection.

READ MORE: Signs You May Have a Cavity and How To Prevent Them

Signs That You Have a Cavity That Needs to Be Filled

Tooth Pain and Sensitivity

Everyone experiences toothaches. However, if you feel a significantly strong pain when eating, drinking or biting down, or your teeth are sensitive to heat or cold, you may have a cavity. In addition to pain and sensitivity, you may notice a bad taste in your mouth, or that your breath is worse than normal.

READ MORE: Tooth Sensitivity and How To Find Relief

Dark Spot On Tooth

Cavities are usually visible. They are small in appearance, and typically look like a black dot or hole. Sometimes, they are surrounded by brown or dark yellow markings. You can probably feel the cavity with your tongue if it is large enough to be visible.


Discoloured teeth do not automatically indicate that there is a cavity. However, dark staining is a common symptom of a cavity. As the cavity worsens, you will start to notice the stains get darker and larger.

Signs That You May Require a Root Canal

Severe Tooth Pain and/or Sensitivity

Tooth pain and sensitivity could indicate that you need a filling or a root canal. If the pain is persistent and strong, or if your teeth feel particularly weak, it is likely that your tooth’s pulp is damaged and that you will need a root canal.

READ MORE: Everything You Need to Know About Root Canals

Broken Tooth

Is your tooth chipped or cracked? You may need a root canal. If your tooth breaks from physical contact, an opening is created, which exposes it to a potential bacterial infection. If your tooth breaks on its own, it’s likely that the tooth’s interior is already damaged. In both cases, seek assistance from a dentist.

Swollen Gums

The gums around a tooth with damaged pulp will often swell. This is caused by dead pulp tissues in particular. You may also notice a small pus-filled bump on your gums. These are indicators that your tooth needs a root canal.

Tooth Discolouration

When a tooth’s pulp is damaged, the tooth often sprouts a gray or black marking. This symptom does not automatically indicate that your tooth requires a root canal. However, you should still seek treatment from a dentist if you notice any significant discolouration in your teeth.

How To Prevent Oral Health Issues That Require Either Procedure

The best way to avoid the need for either of these treatments is to brush and floss properly and frequently. Regular trips to the dentist can also help limit these problems or catch them before they worsen. Most dentists recommended checkups at least once every six months, but if you notice any problems, try to book an appointment sooner.

READ MORE: Warning Signs of a Tooth Infection

In conclusion, root canals and tooth fillings are two common treatments for oral health issues. Fillings are performed when tooth decay needs to be removed and replaced, while root canals treat the tooth when its pulp is damaged. Several issues may indicate that you need either treatment and you should maintain proper teeth cleaning habits to avoid emergency dental procedures.