Dental Crowns vs. Cavity Fillings: Which is better?

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Dental crown premolar tooth assembly process. Medically accurate 3D illustration of human teeth treatment

Dental crowns and cavity fillings are two common dental procedures that play pivotal roles in preserving teeth and preventing further damage. Knowing which of these restorative dentistry treatments is best for your smile, however, can take some consideration.

Luckily, you don’t have to make the decision by yourself. With the team at Lakewood Dental Group in Dallas, TX, you can get personalized care that enhances your smile without compromising your health or budget. Contact Dr. Mihir Patel and Dr. Shaun Sigurdson today at (214) 827-1885 to schedule your appointment now.

In this blog post, our team dives into the characteristics, uses, and differences between dental crowns and cavity fillings. Understanding the distinctions and similarities of these two treatments can help you make an informed decision about which is best for your specific dental needs.

Dental Crowns: Protecting and Reinforcing Teeth

Dental crowns (sometimes called caps) are tooth-shaped, versatile restorative devices that encase the entire visible portion of a tooth above the gumline. Dentists can create these dental prosthetics from a range of durable materials, such as:

  • Porcelain
  • Ceramic
  • Metal
  • A combination of materials 

As a restorative device, caps are designed to repair a tooth’s shape, size, and strength while also enhancing its appearance and function.

Uses and Indications

Dental professionals often recommend tooth crowns in various scenarios, including:

  • Severely Decayed or Damaged Teeth: Sometimes, a tooth that has experienced extensive decay or damage cannot be effectively treated with a simple dental filling. In these cases, a dentist may recommend a sturdier dental crown instead of a lightweight filling.
  • Root Canal Therapy: The inner pulp of teeth can often become infected when tiny cracks in teeth expose their innermost anatomy to harmful oral bacteria. Once this happens, root canal therapy may be the only way to prevent further damage and save the tooth. Following a root canal procedure, dentists place a dental crown over the treated tooth to provide additional support and protection.
  • Cosmetic Enhancement: Tooth-colored caps are rapidly transforming the realm of cosmetic dentistry. For patients with discolored or misshapen teeth who do not qualify for other cosmetic treatments (like veneers), dental crowns may be a long-lasting and aesthetically pleasing option to explore.

Procedure

Today, the process of getting a dental crown is faster and more patient-friendly than ever. The procedure typically involves:

  • Tooth Preparation: To get a tooth ready for a dental cap, a dentist must prepare and shape it. This means that a dentist must remove any bits of decay or damage before shaping the tooth to accommodate its future crown.
  • Impression: Once the tooth is fully prepared, then a dentist can take impressions of the tooth. Dental professionals use these impressions to make ultra-personalized crowns that fit snuggly on top of the treated teeth.
  • Temporary Crown: Unfortunately, custom-fitted crowns take time and energy to create. However, a dentist can fit patients with a lifelike temporary crown while awaiting their finalized device. Just remember – temporary crowns are not as durable as custom-fitted crowns, so bite and chew carefully.
  • Crown Placement: Once the permanent crown is complete, a dentist can cement it onto the tooth. Et voila! A damaged tooth is restored to its original glory!

Lifespan and Cost

Dental crowns have earned a positive reputation as a durable restorative dentistry treatment, often lasting for 10 to 15 years (or even longer!).  Their longevity makes the cost of this treatment well worth it, clocking in at roughly $800 to $3,000 per crown (depending on materials used). 

Cavity Fillings: Repairing Minor to Moderate Damage

Cavity fillings (sometimes dental fillings or tooth-colored fillings) are a common treatment for repairing teeth affected by dental caries (cavities) or minor damage. Dental professionals design these restorations to fill in the space left after the removal of decayed tooth material, restoring the tooth’s functionality and preventing further decay.

Uses and Indications

Cavity fillings are remarkably versatile, with dentists typically recommending them for:

  • Small to Moderate Cavities: Dental decay is a problem that will not go away without dentist intervention. Luckily, when a dentist detects tooth decay in its early stages, a filling is often sufficient to restore the tooth.
  • Chipped or Fractured Teeth: Some minor damage (like chips and fractures) can lead to further damage and potential discomfort. A dentist can use fillings to repair minor damage to teeth, preventing continued damage
  • Cosmetic Improvements: Tooth-colored fillings are a superstar in cosmetic dentistry. These fillings consist of composite resin, which dentists can carefully color-match to a patient’s natural teeth, providing cosmetic improvements to discolored, misshapen, or lightly damaged teeth.

Procedure

Unlike dental crowns, fillings often require only one appointment to administer. The process of getting a cavity filling involves:

  • Decay Removal: A dentist must remove any remnants of decay before placing the filling.
  • Filling Placement: Once prepared, the clean cavity is ready to be filled. Patients often have a range of materials to choose from when getting a filling, including amalgam (silver), composite resin (tooth-colored), gold, or porcelain. The material that patients choose often depends on their budget, aesthetic goals, and the scope of damage.
  • Shaping and Polishing: Once the filling settles inside the cavity, a dentist then shapes it to fit the natural contours of the patient’s tooth and bite, ensuring a seamless finish.

Lifespan and Cost

The lifespan of cavity fillings can vary depending on many factors, such as:

  • The material used
  • The location of the filling
  • The size of the cavity

Composite resin fillings typically last around 5 to 7 years, while metal fillings can last longer. The cost of fillings ranges from $100 to $500 per tooth, making them a more budget-friendly option compared to dental crowns.

Choosing the Right Treatment

The choice between dental crowns and cavity fillings depends on the specific dental issue and its severity. For example:

  • Small Cavities or Minor Damage: Cavity fillings are the go-to solution for minor issues, providing a less invasive and more cost-effective option.
  • Extensive Decay or Damage: Dental crowns are ideal when the tooth structure is significantly compromised, providing the necessary strength and protection it needs to thrive.
  • Aesthetic Considerations: If cosmetic improvement is a priority, both dental crowns and tooth-colored fillings offer aesthetically pleasing results. However, tooth-colored fillings are generally recommended for smaller restorations.
  • Longevity and Durability: Dental crowns are the superior choice for long-term durability, especially in cases of extensive damage or when additional support is needed after a root canal.

Cavity Fillings and Dental Crowns in Dallas, TX

In the realm of dental restorations, both dental crowns and cavity fillings play vital roles in preserving and enhancing oral health. Whether you’re dealing with a small cavity or extensive damage, consulting with our dentists in Dallas, TX, will help determine the best course of action for your smile. Contact Lakewood Dental Group online, or call (214) 827-1885 for personalized care today!