What Determines Whether You'll Get A Filling Or A Crown?

When a person needs to have their teeth fixed, two of the most common solutions practitioners will employ are dental fillings and crowns. A filling involves drilling out existing material and replacing the created whole with new material, and a crown calls for much of the outside of a tooth to be removed and replaced with a cap. What might seem perplexing, however, is precisely why a dentist may elect to perform one procedure versus the other.

Preserving the Existing Tooth

One of the biggest priorities a dentist has is attempting to keep as much of the original tooth as possible. This is why you see that doctors tend to have a preference for using dental fillings. In many cases, a small spot of a cavity can be drilled out and filled, leaving a sizeable percentage of the original natural tooth. With recent advances in medicated fillings, doctors are also becoming increasingly confident in using fillings to fix advanced carries.

Providing Strength for Biting

Among the biggest reasons a dentist might choose to use dental crowns is if there are concerns about how well a tooth might hold up when a patient bites down on food.  If there is a large crack in a tooth, drilling it out and filling it may not provide enough structural integrity to keep the tooth from breaking at a future time. Dental crowns provide a single, solid surface for food to come into contact with, and that makes biting down less risky. This frequently ends up being a bit of a judgment call, but that's why you seek the advice of a trained professional.


On a per-tooth basis, dental fillings are usually much cheaper than crowns. Some insurance policies also may not cover dental crowns, and a doctor will always decide that doing something, such as putting in fillings, is better than leaving a patient untreated.

Large Abscesses

There comes a point where the size of a proposed filling can be too much for a dentist to tolerate. If a filling ends up constituting a large percentage of the tooth once it's fixed, there will be concerns about what happens if it falls out. Dentists tend to be especially worried about the hole becoming a collector for debris left over from chewing. Dental crowns can suffer the same issues, but putting them back in once they've come out is often a simpler process.