When/how does a dentist examine/determine a tooth needs a root canal instead of a filling?

Anonymous
I am aware the the dentist perform root canal when the infection has reached the pulp. But how the doctor know when the infection has reached the pulp? Is it by X-rays? Or the dentist determine it will doing the drilling/cleaning for a filling?
When/how does a dentist examine/determine a tooth needs a root canal instead of a filling?
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