Most dental patients are familiar with what fillings are, and how they can be used to preserve a decayed tooth. But what are crowns? When do you need one? And why not just place a filling instead of a crown? These are common questions and in this blog post we’ll explain why your dentist may have recommended placing a crown on your tooth rather than a filling.
Crown or Filling? That is the Question
When a tooth has become decayed to the point where dental intervention is necessary, there are a several ways to go about fixing the problem. The amount of lost tooth structure is the chief determining factor between crowns and fillings, as both are common solutions that dentists use every day. Once your dentist has completed a comprehensive dental exam of your mouth, he or she will know which procedure will work best to salvage the decayed tooth or teeth.
Fillings are very straightforward; the process involves removing the decayed area of the tooth, followed by filling the void with a restorative material such as: silver amalgam, porcelain, or composite. Each of these materials brings with it certain pros and cons; amalgam is the more durable material but may contribute to tooth fractures over time. On the other hand, composite fillings more closely resemble the color of one’s natural teeth and can be bonded to the remaining tooth for added strength.
Your dentist will decide which type of filling will work best for your needs. Generally speaking, the smaller the cavity the more likely that a filling will adequately fix the tooth.
Crowns Serve as Reinforcements
In situations where the amount of missing tooth structure is too large (more than 50%) the longevity of a filling starts to drop. Teeth with very large fillings are more prone to fracturing and large fillings are more prone to new decay forming around the edges of the filling. Since large fillings break down more quickly, it soon becomes costly and destructive to the tooth to continually have to replace the filling. Teeth that are worked on frequently are more likely to need root canals; especially when they have large or deep fillings. In situations where a tooth has a very large filling, is cracked (or cracking), or is severely worn your dentist will typically recommend placing a crown.
What is a crown?
A crown is a synthetic covering custom fabricated to fit over a weak tooth to make it stronger. Crowns prevent teeth from fracturing and last much longer than a large filling. To place a crown a tooth is first reshaped to remove some of the large filling material and make space for the crown; a mold or scan of the tooth is then taken to allow for fabrication of the crown. The crown (sometimes called a cap) is then cemented over top of the reshaped tooth to protect the tooth under heavy bite forces. Crowns can be made from many different materials such as: gold, porcelain, zirconia or porcelain fused to metal. Each crown material has different esthetic and structural advantages; your dentist will typically discuss the best crown material for your tooth. Front teeth can have all porcelain crowns placed that are indistinguishable from a real tooth.
Crowns are typically more costly to place than a filling; but since they last so much longer and can help save a tooth that might otherwise be lost, they are very cost effective over the long term.
If you want to learn more about these common dental procedures, feel free to get in touch with the experts at Pearl Dental, today!