Are crowns better than fillings?

What’s the difference between a crown and a filling?

Do I need a crown or a filling for my tooth?

Crowns and fillings are both restorative tools dentists use to fix decayed or broken teeth, but each one is used for a slightly different purpose. Dentists usually use fillings for small cavities and use crowns when the decay or break is more severe.

If you’re wondering about more of the specifics regarding dental crowns vs. fillings, then this is the article for you.

In this article, we’re providing expert insight into when to crown a tooth and when to use a filling. You’ll also get an answer to, “Can you get a crown on a cracked tooth?”

Let’s go ahead and dive into our topic of crowns and fillings.

Common Questions About Dental Crowns vs. Fillings

As a patient, it can be confusing to know when to crown a tooth and when to use a filling.

Fortunately, trained dentists understand the difference between a crown and a filling and know when each is appropriate.

To give you insight into dental crowns vs. fillings, we’re providing expert information on these two dental procedures. Here are the top four questions and answers about crowns and fillings.

What’s the Difference Between a Crown and a Filling?

Crowns and fillings are both restorative procedures used to fix decayed or broken teeth. But though they both can fix dental issues, they do have some slight differences.

Here’s a more in-depth look at dental crowns and fillings.


Fillings are one of the most common dental procedures. Researchers estimate that Americans receive nearly 175 million dental fillings each year.

Dentists “fill” a tooth (or teeth) when it has a small hole (or cavity) in it. Cavities occur when someone doesn’t effectively remove plaque and bacteria from their teeth. Over time, these bacteria release acids that break down the outer layer of the tooth (enamel) and create a hole in the tooth. 

To fill a tooth, the dentist will:

  1. Numb the affected area of the mouth
  2. Use a drill to remove the decayed part of the tooth 
  3. Fill in the hole with a composite material
  4. Polish and adjust the filling to fit properly in the tooth

The whole process usually only requires one appointment but can take more if you have a large number of cavities. 

Once the dentist completes the procedure, you can head home and use your mouth as normal.

However, it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene after getting a filling. In addition, fillings can last many years but will need to be replaced at some point.

Dental Crowns

Dental crowns are tooth-like caps that a dentist places over an existing tooth. They look, feel, and act like natural teeth, so they have both restorative and cosmetic functions.

Like fillings, dentists use dental crowns to fix decayed teeth. But unlike fillings, crowns can also be used to:

The dental crown procedure generally requires two appointment:

  1. During the first appointment, your dentist will prepare your tooth and place a temporary crown while the permanent crown is being made.
  2. At the second appointment, the dentist will attach the permanent crown.

You may experience some slight pain for a few days following the crown procedure, but you can use your tooth as normal. And if you take good care of your crown, it can last up to 10+ years before you need to replace it.

Now that you know more about dental crowns vs. fillings, let’s look at how dentists know when to crown a tooth or use a filling.

How Do Dentists Know When to Crown a Tooth or Use a Filling?

Before advising you on whether you need a crown or filling, your dentist will assess your situation. They’ll be looking for a few things:

After looking at your tooth, your dentist will know whether a crown or filling is best.

When Dentists Use a Filling

If the cavity is small and a large amount of the tooth is still healthy, your dentists will most likely choose to use a filling.

As long as you maintain good oral hygiene and listen to your dentist’s recommendations, the filling should restore your tooth function and decrease your risk of future decay.

However, if the tooth decays further or decay forms around the filling, you may need another procedure.

When Dentists Crown a Tooth

Crowns are a more advanced procedure that fixes more serious tooth issues.

Your dentist will choose to use a crown if:

  • Your cavity is too large for a filling
  • Deeper tooth tissues are affected and you need a root canal procedure
  • Your tooth is worn down or weakened
  • There are large cracks or breaks in your tooth
  • A previous filling decays further and is too big for another filling

Compared to fillings, crowns more effectively strengthen teeth and restore function when decay or breaks are severe. They essentially “replace” (cover) your existing tooth with a new, stronger tooth.

For many cavities, a filling is the first line of defense. But if decay is or becomes too severe, your dentist will use a crown instead.

Can You Get a Crown on a Cracked Tooth?

Yes, you can get a crown to cover a cracked tooth. 

Cracked teeth aren’t very common, but the risk for a cracked tooth increases if you:

A cracked tooth can cause both pain and aesthetic issues, so it’s best to get it fixed as quickly as possible.

Crowns are very effective for covering cracked or broken teeth. Not only will a crown strengthen the tooth, it will also restore the tooth’s appearance and function.

Are Crowns Better Than Fillings?

So, the question still remains, “Are crowns better than fillings?”

One isn’t necessarily better than the other, they simply have different functions.

If you have a small cavity that only affects a small portion of your tooth, then a filling is probably the way to go. The filling procedure for a small cavity will be quicker and less expensive than getting a crown. 

However, if your tooth is heavily decayed or has a crack/break in it, then you may need a crown. A crown will more effectively strengthen and restore your tooth in a way that a filling can’t.

The best way to know whether you need a filling or a crown is to schedule an appointment with your dentist and get their professional opinion.

The Best Place for Crowns and Fillings in Richmond, VA

Dental crowns and fillings are two tools that dentists use to fix tooth decay or chips/breaks. But when it comes to dental crowns vs. fillings, you may have some questions like:

  • What’s the difference between a crown and a filling? A dental crown is a tooth-like cap that dentists place over an existing tooth. Fillings are a composite, tooth-colored material that dentists use to fill in small holes (cavities) in your teeth.
  • How do dentists know when to crown a tooth or a filling? Dentists use fillings for small, contained cavities that don’t affect a large area of the tooth. They use crowns when the decay is more severe or the tooth is cracked/broken.
  • Are crowns better than fillings? Neither is better than the other, they simply have different functions for different situations.

If you think that you need a crown or a filling, you can always schedule an appointment with your dentist to get their expert advice on which is best.

At Northside Dental Co. in Richmond, VA, we provide all kinds of dental services, including crowns and fillings. If you have a small cavity that needs to be filled, we can do that. And if you have a more serious tooth issue that may require a crown, come on in. Our dentists are ready to assess your oral situation and provide you with the best solution for long-term health.

Book your appointment online today to get started. We’re excited to meet you!