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Difference between Tooth Filling and Crown: Which Do You Need?

Woman smiling

Dental procedures can seem complicated and scary for many, often leading to confusion about the best treatment. Regarding issues like cavities or tooth damage, two common restorative treatments frequently discussed are tooth fillings and dental crowns. But how do you know which one you truly need?

This guide will explain everything you need to know about dental fillings and dental crowns, giving you the information you need to make the right choice about your oral health.

Let’s explore the intricate world of dental restorations and uncover what’s right for you.

What is Dental Filling?

Woman getting teeth filled

A dental filling is a treatment to repair a damaged tooth affected by minor tooth decay. When a tooth starts to have a cavity or minor decay, a filling is a common and effective way to restore the remaining tooth structure. The procedure involves eliminating the damaged tooth because of decay and filling the space with dental material to prevent further damage.

There are numerous filling options, including gold, porcelain, silver amalgam (a mixture of mercury, silver, tin, zinc, and copper), tooth-colored plastic, and a filling known as composite resin, to choose from.

The dental fillings of your choice are then carefully placed and shaped to match the tooth’s enamel. A regular or emergency dentist commonly performs this procedure based on the severity of the tooth decay. While they are a basic dental procedure, modern techniques and materials ensure that fillings are durable and blend smoothly with natural teeth.

What is Dental Crown?

Woman fitting the same of her teeth

A dental crown, sometimes called a cap, is placed over the original tooth to bring back its shape, size, strength, and appearance. Dental crowns surround the entire visible portion of a tooth and are customised to match your teeth’ natural shape and colour.

This complete restoration is often used for teeth that have undergone more extensive damage, such as severe tooth decay or cracked teeth, or after a root canal treatment. Crowns are made from different source materials, including porcelain, ceramic, or metal alloys, and provide a level of structural support that a dental filling alone cannot match.

When do you need a dental crown?

Dental crowns are the go-to solution when a tooth’s structure is on the verge of further decay and becomes a weakened tooth. This may be due to a large cavity, a fracture, a misshapen tooth, or an older, deteriorated filling.

Dental crowns are the next line of defense to save the decayed tooth when the damage cannot be solved by getting dental fillings.

Dental Issues Resolved with Crowns

  • Extensive Tooth Decay: A crown offers better protection and support when a cavity is too large for a simple filling.
  • Cracks or Fractures: A crown covers and holds together a cracked tooth, preventing it from breaking further.
  • Following Root Canals: Teeth that have been treated with a root canal are often weakened and require a crown for reinforcement.

Process of Dental Crown

Dentist explaining to the patient

The placement of dental crowns usually requires at least two dental visits. Initially, your dentist numbs the tooth and the surrounding area.

They then shape the tooth to accommodate the crown, which means removing some of the outer layers. After reshaping, an impression of the tooth is made and sent to a dental lab, where the custom dental crown is made.

You’ll receive a temporary crown to protect the tooth between visits. The temporary crown is removed on your second appointment, and the custom-made permanent crown is cemented into place, adjusted for fit, and your bite checked and readjusted if necessary.

When do you need a Dental Filling?

Dental fillings are simpler restorations made for less damaged teeth. Fillings effectively treat cavities and dental caries and restore an entire tooth, stopping the spread of decay while preserving much of the natural tooth structure.

Dental Issues Resolved with Fillings

  • Cavities: Small to moderate areas of decay are removed, and fillings are placed to restore the existing tooth.
  • Minor Tooth Damage: Chips and small fractures can often be repaired with a filling, especially those that don’t involve a considerable portion of the tooth.

Process of Dental Filling

Dentist cleaning a patients tooth

For a filling, the process is usually more efficient, with the dentist numbing the area, removing the damaged tooth, cleaning the area, and filling the space. The filling is shaped to match the tooth’s natural structure and smoothed to ensure your bite isn’t affected.

Difference between Tooth Filling and Crown

Tooth fillings and dental crowns are both dental procedures used to repair damaged teeth, but they have some key differences:

Extent of damage:

  • Fillings: Used for minor damage or decay, like smaller cavities or chips. They only repair the affected area, leaving the rest of the tooth intact.
  • Crowns: Used for more extensive damage, like large cavities, cracks, weakened teeth, or teeth with root canals. They cover the whole visible portion of the tooth, essentially acting like a cap.

Procedure:

  • Fillings: Minimally invasive. The dentist removes the decayed or damaged part of the tooth and fills it with a material like composite resin, amalgam, or glass ionomer cement.
  • Crowns: More involved process. The dentist removes the decayed part of the damaged tooth and fills it with a material like composite resin, amalgam, or glass ionomer cement. Sometimes, an impression is taken, and the crown is custom-made in a lab. It’s then cemented onto the prepared tooth.

Material:

  • Fillings: Made from various materials, composite resin is preferred due to its natural appearance and bonding strength.
  • Crowns: Typically made from porcelain, metal, or a combination of both. Porcelain offers a more natural look, while metal is known for its durability.

Durability:

  • Fillings: Can last for several years but will eventually wear and tear, a replacement may be needed.
  • Crowns: Generally last longer than fillings, with proper care lasting 10–15 years or even longer.

Cost:

  • Fillings: Usually less expensive than crowns due to the simpler procedure and materials used.
  • Crowns: More expensive than fillings due to the complexity of the procedure and materials involved.

Appearance:

  • Fillings: Composite resin fillings can match the colour of your natural teeth, offering a good aesthetic outcome. However, other filling materials may be more noticeable.
  • Crowns: Can be made to match the right colour and shape of your surrounding teeth, providing a natural and attractive look.
Feature Tooth filling Crown
Extent of Damage Minor damage, small cavities, chips Extensive damage, large cavities, cracks, weakened teeth, root canals
Procedure Minimally invasive, removes and fills damaged area More involved, reshapes tooth, takes impression, cements crown
Material Composite resin, amalgam, glass ionomer cement Porcelain, metal, or combination
Durability Lasts several years, may need replacement Lasts 10-15 years or longer with proper care
Cost Less expensive More expensive
Appearance Can match natural teeth (composite resin), other materials may be noticeable Matches natural teeth perfectly
 

Care and Maintenance for Fillings and Crowns

Oral Hygiene Practices: Having good oral health is important regardless of dental restoration. Brushing and flossing regularly and scheduling dentist visits will help stop decay or damage to your restorative work.

Filling Lifespan: The lifespan of a filling varies, but with proper care, it can last many years. Maintaining regular dental check-ups is vital to monitoring the durability of your fillings.

Crown Lifespan: Crowns can last a long time, often over a decade, with good care. Avoiding hard foods, using teeth for their intended purpose, and maintaining oral hygiene are essential for the longevity of your crowns.

Conclusion

Choosing between a dental filling and a dental crown isn’t just about fixing a dental issue—it’s about preserving your oral health. Your dentist is your best friend when it comes to determining which treatment is right for you. Book a dental visit to learn about dental crowns and fillings before deciding.

With the right choice, your smile can continue to shine brightly for years.

Get the perfect solution for your Dental Health!

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