The difference between a dental crown and dental fillings lies in how much of the tooth they cover. However, that’s not the only difference. For example, fillings and crowns also differ in placement, how much work they require on healthy teeth to use, and even their expense. Your dentist is the only one who can say whether you need a crown or a filling, but these facts may give you an idea of what to expect.
Fillings are placed inside your tooth
A tooth filling is placed inside the tooth. When you get a cavity (or crack or break your tooth) there is a pit worn into your tooth. Food can pack into this pit and speed the decay process. If the decay reaches your tooth’s nerve, you could be in for a severe infection. Before you require a root canal, your dentist can step in and stop the decay with a filling. The tooth is thoroughly cleaned, and then the pit is filled in with a filling material, from silver amalgam to resin composite. The filling rests inside your tooth, bringing the pit level with the rest of the surface.
A crown sits over the rest of your tooth. Instead of sitting flush with healthy tooth enamel, crowns for teeth cover them completely. It’s less exciting than a jeweled crown, but still very nice.
Crowns require tooth shaping
In order to fit over your tooth, crowns require tooth shaping. Your dentist will grind away healthy enamel whittle the tooth down to something that fits under your crown. It doesn’t make sense to do this for anything less than major decay. Crowns are only used in cases where a significant portion of the tooth has already been lost, or where a filling is unlikely to remain secure.
Fillings are usually placed on the side of the tooth
Fillings are usually placed on the sides of teeth, as opposed to the chewing surface. This is partly because the sides of the teeth are much more prone to decay. Food is often trapped between teeth or along the gum line. That’s why flossing is so essential; it’s difficult for your toothbrush to clean these areas alone. Fillings are rarely placed on the top of teeth because the filling material is weaker than the enamel around it. Chewing on a filling is more likely to result in the filling breaking or wearing out prematurely. Crowns are stronger and can be brought in for large cavities on the chewing surface of teeth.
Crowns are more expensive
Another big difference between fillings and crowns is the price. Fillings are not cheap, but they can typically be placed for under $150 even without insurance. Crowns, on the other hand, start at around $500 and soar upwards from there. The top of the average range settles about $2,500. While crowns last a long time and are stronger, many people opt to place a filling first in the hopes of avoiding a large bill.
Crowns and fillings serve the same purpose. They’re both used to stop the spread of tooth decay. While a crown is the stronger option, it is more expensive and requires the sacrifice of potentially healthy tooth enamel. While fillings tend to be more affordable, they also tend to be weaker. Your dentist will help guide your decision-making so you get the dental care that’s right for you.