Patients often ask about the difference between dental crowns and fillings. Specifically, they want to know: ‘Do I really need a crown? Or can I just have a filling?’
While it’s true that crowns and fillings are both are used to treat issues with the visible part of the tooth – as opposed to the root, which is covered by gums and bone – crowns and fillings are not the same. Here are some of the benefits of crowns over fillings:
Crowns are stronger, longer lasting restorations than fillings primarily because they are made from different materials. A filling is made of plastic which is glued to the tooth. A crown completely covers the tooth and is made of metal, porcelain or ceramic. The benefit of a crown in these instances is two-fold. Crowns cover a larger area of the tooth that is already weak or damaged by trauma with a stronger material.
Crowns are made from a variety of materials, depending on the patient and what the crown is being used for. For example, stainless steel crowns are often used to cover baby teeth for children while porcelain crowns have long been preferred by adults for their natural appearance. Ceramic crowns can be made and fitted in a single visit using the latest digital scanning technology without the need for a temporary crown and multiple return visits.
Sometimes when a large filling has been in the mouth for a while your dentist will recommend that it’s replaced with a crown because the tooth shows signs of stress. This is because the remaining tooth around the large filling is so weak that it’s prone to fracture.
Similarly, when a tooth has a cavity or fracture that involves half the width of the tooth or more, it needs to be covered with a crown. A tooth that has had a root canal almost always needs to be restored with a crown immediately to prevent cracking.
Some patients need to have a crown due to excessive wear and tear on the tooth enamel. Grinding your teeth will cause teeth to become shorter over time, while teeth can also wear away due to acid erosion caused by factors such as gastrointestinal disorders and diet (for example a highly acidic diet). Sometimes, the enamel will wear away completely, leaving small, soft teeth which can be restored to normal size by covering the teeth with crowns.
Teeth naturally come in all different shapes, sizes and colours. Filings can be used to improve small areas of discolouration on the front of your teeth however their use for cosmetic purposes is limited. If you want to change the appearance of your teeth, crowns or dental veneers can be an effective way of enhancing your smile. They can be made to look very natural, and sometimes they don’t even require preparing or shaving the existing teeth.
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