If you have cavities or a weakened or fractured tooth, your regular or emergency dentist will likely recommend a filling or a crown. Sometimes these treatments can be used interchangeably, but it’s often better to use one over the other. Dentistry relies on several factors to help determine which option to recommend to patients.
It’s important, though, to first understand the difference between crowns and fillings. A crown is a prosthetic device cemented onto the tooth, providing coverage, and strength to a tooth. A filling is a material bonded into a tooth, replacing the damaged tooth structure.
Here are some of the ways that a dentist thinks about whether to recommend a filling versus a crown.
Fillings are best when:
- There are no cracks. Fillings aren’t recommended for cracked teeth, but teeth in mostly good condition are candidates. The filling relies on the tooth’s strength to do its job, as the filling’s job is to repair and replace the tooth structure damaged by decay.
- The decayed area is small. For minor repairs, fillings are the best and safest option.
- Cost is an issue. Fillings cost less than crowns and only require one dental visit, versus two for crowns. That said, you don’t want to compromise your dental health because of finances or an extra visit. A tooth that’s not properly repaired can cost more in the long run, possibly requiring a rooth canal, bridge, implant or denture.
Crowns are best when:
- Your tooth is cracked. A crown can help extend the tooth’s life. A cracked tooth won’t heal and a crown is the best way to hold the tooth together so it won’t breakdown further.
- A large portion of the tooth needs filling. A filling doesn’t always protect the tooth over the long term. If a big portion of the tooth needs filling, a crown might be a better option. The filling can act like a wedge when you chew, putting pressure on the tooth and causing fractures. Placing a crown earlier might save you additional visits and cost later.
- Your tooth is weak. The crown can prevent it from cracking and weakening further, so you can avoid dental implants and dentures if possible.
- You want to cover a discolored or misshapen tooth. A crown looks like a regular tooth. The dentist will match the color, size and shape so that it’s aesthetically pleasing as well as functional.
Your dentist in St. Petersburg FL should be happy to talk to you about the pros and cons of getting a filling or crown, should you need one. Be sure to ask any questions, so you can make the best choice for you if they’re both an option. Sometimes the dentist will suggest only one type of treatment. Sedation dentistry can be helpful for those with concerns when getting dental treatment.