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

January 29, 2019

It is completely normal for the lingo used by dental professionals to come across as a foreign language. It’s sometimes much easier to just smile and nod your head while in the chair than to ask for extensive details about the procedures that are being recommended to you.

The two most common dental procedures are crowns and fillings. Have you ever wondered what the difference between these two are? We are here to FILL you in. Pun intended! 😉

The most common reason for you to need a filling or crown would be due to tooth decay. Tooth decay arises from a combination of bacteria, acid, and food debris that combines with your saliva to form a substance called plaque, which clings to your teeth. If that plaque is not brushed or flossed away on a consistent basis, the acid will wear away and dissolve the enamel surface of the teeth, creating microscopic holes in which bacteria can enter. If left untreated, tooth decay can progress to the point where you experience pain, and treatment becomes more costly.

Choosing to treat a decayed tooth with either a filling or crown will more than likely be your dentist’s first line of defense.

What is a filling?

In a nutshell, a dental filling is exactly as it sounds. Your dentist will work to remove the decayed portion of your tooth. Once the tooth has been cleaned of all cavities your dentist will then “fill in” the void where the cavity had formed. After the filling has been placed your tooth will be back to its usable shape.

There are different materials your dentist will choose to use to fill your teeth with. The most commonly used filling materials are composite resin (tooth-colored) or amalgam (silver). Your dentist will choose which material is best for your situation based on the extent of the tooth damage, which tooth or area of the tooth that is being filled, among other factors. In most cases, fillings are used to restore minor amounts of damage within the tooth’s structure.

What is a crown?

In some cases restoring your tooth may require a crown, commonly referred to as a “cap”. This is due to the tooth having a great amount of decay, a significant chip, or is broken or fractured; among other unique reasons. A crown will cover your entire existing tooth above the gumline portion in order to protect it.

You may be wondering how your dentist actually makes a crown. Once the decayed tooth structure has been removed and the tooth has been prepared, an impression of your tooth in the prepared state will be taken. This can be done physically with impression material and a tray or digitally. In most cases, this impression will be sent to a lab where they will fabricate a crown to fit your tooth. Your dentist will then place this on your remaining natural tooth structure with a special dental cement. A crown appears physically just like your natural tooth! There are many different materials your dentist may choose to make your crown with. Commonly used materials are porcelain, gold, or a combination of porcelain and metal.

Unfortunately fillings and crowns do not last forever. Both are subject to wear and tear and may need to be replaced over time. Depending on the situation, your dentist will suggest the best course of treatment for you. There are many factors that play a role in the dentist’s choice on whether to restore decay with a crown or a filling. To protect the overall health of your mouth, make it priority to floss at least once and brush twice daily along with routine visits to your dentist!

Questions? Check out our FAQ section or send us a message.


What are people saying?

“Williams Family Dentistry is amazing! I’m absolutely terrified of dentists, but their caring staff ensures that my fears are acknowledged and assists me with finding ways to overcome them. They are the only dental office that I trust. They take great care of their patients and I will never go anywhere else.”
Andrea R

“I’ve seen multiple other dentists in town over the years and am so happy I switched to Williams Family Dentistry! Everyone who works there is so friendly and I feel like they are much more thorough than any other place I’ve been to before. Highly recommend!”
Suzy M

“Everyone at Williams Family Dentistry is very friendly and ready to help you in any way they can. Melanie is an amazing hygienist and I appreciate her skills and knowledge every time I am there. Dr. Shanna is a wonderful dentist. Her care and compassion for her patients is amazing. She is a great addition to a wonderful family of dentists.”
Renee J


Phone: 979-695-8029


1511 Emerald Plaza
College Station, TX


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