What’s the difference between a dental crown and a filling?
Post by Dr Tiffany Kenton, dentist
If a patient has been told they need a dental crown, it’s not unusual for them to ask, “Can I get away with just having a filling?” After all, crowns are more expensive than fillings, and both of them are used for the restoration of a tooth. And which one you use really comes down to the particular case in question. Basically, in a case when the cavity is quite small, a filling might suffice. However, when you find that there’s a lot of tooth structure missing, what the crown does is it acts a bit like a helmet around the tooth and stops it from breaking. So a crown is basically a lot stronger than a filling.
It comes down to a finance issue as well. The reality is that dental crowns are a lot more expensive than fillings. The reason for this is a crown is more complicated to create, and it costs time and materials in a laboratory to prepare one. Also, a filling can usually be taken care of in a single visit, where a crown requires several visits. We have to make a mould and reduce the existing tooth structure to allow for it, then fit a temporary crown while the final one is being milled, and then finally glue the permanent crown in place. Some patients say, “Look, I would consider a crown later, but would you mind just putting a filling in the meantime?” Which isn’t a problem, as long as they’re aware that the filling may break, in the meantime as well.
There are various options available for fillings, and some patients may be curious to know about whether we use amalgam fillings, and what our recommendations around them are. Amalgam fillings, or silver fillings, have been around for a very long time (about 100 years), and has been used because the material is reliable and long-lasting. It does contain a small amount of mercury, and for that reason alone many people are wary about using them. But there has also been a lot of scientific investigation into whether amalgam fillings are bad for you, and at present the scientific consensus is they do not present a health risk to patients. At Greenwood Dental we don’t use amalgam purely because nowadays, we find that the composite fillings are actually quite good structurally. But there’s no proof to date to say that the amalgam fillings actually harm you, in any way. Unless, it’s something wrong with the filling, or if there’s any other indication to remove the filling, it would certainly won’t improve the health in any way. Well, there’s no proof to say that it does.