Is a filling the same as a root canal?

My dentist said I have a cavity and need a filling. I’ve never had one. Is that the same as a root canal? I’ve heard they are painful.

Lizzie G.- St. Paul, Minnesota


No, a root canal and a filling are two different things. With a filling your dentist will remove the decay from your tooth and fill it with a type of material, either an amalgam (silver) filling or a composite (white) filling. The composite fillings are a little better for your teeth, but if your dentist isn’t comfortable with them, don’t push it. ┬áIt means he doesn’t have significant training with that type of filling. If they’re not bonded on properly, it can cause more problems.

A root canal is when your cavity has resulted in an infection. In those cases your dentist will have to remove the materials from the canals of your teeth and fill them with a replacement. You generally will need a dental crown when the procedure is completed.

Though root canals have a bad reputation, they are not nearly as bad as getting a tooth extracted. In fact, in many cases they are painless.

This blog is brought to you by Lafayette Dentist Dr. John Theriot.