How do we decide whether a tooth needs a filling or a crown? The decision is really very straightforward.
When you have a cavity, a filling usually serves as the best way to repair the tooth. But when there’s a bigger problem—your tooth has a crack, the decayed area is very large, or the tooth itself has become weak—it’s time for a crown.
A filling replaces a small decayed area of a tooth with a composite resin that maintains the tooth’s structure. This minor repair can happen in just one office visit, usually requiring a shot of local anesthetic so you remain comfortable while the dentist removes the decayed area.
If your tooth is cracked or if you’ve already had several fillings in the same tooth, your dentist will recommend a crown. This prosthetic device replaces a larger part of the tooth, and is custom-made to look and feel like the original tooth. Getting a crown requires two office visits: one to remove the damaged part of the tooth and prepare the remaining part to receive the crown, and to take impressions to send to the lab that will make your crown. The dentist places a temporary crown on the prepared tooth, allowing you to chew normally until your long-term crown arrives. In the second visit, your dentist installs the crown, cementing it into place permanently.
Crowns are more expensive than fillings, but a crown is often the best solution if a tooth has become damaged and highly sensitive. Your dentist will explain which option will bring you lasting relief and comfort.