What is the difference between a filling and a dental crown? Take a look at what you need to know about the different types of restorations and crowns, and how a dentist can help you achieve true mouth health. 

What Is A Dental Filling?

This type of common restoration is exactly what the name sounds like. Fillings fill holes created by dental decay. A cavity can destroy part of the tooth, leaving behind an empty area. To stop the spread of decay and reduce the risk of a serious infection (or even permanent tooth loss), the dentist must drill and fill the tooth. The drilling step removes the decayed portion of the tooth. The filling fills the hole that's left behind and protects the tooth.

Dental fillings are made from tooth-colored and non-tooth-colored materials. These include composite resin (tooth-colored) and silver amalgam (silver/metal-colored) options. Before the dentist drills or fills a tooth, they will numb the area with an injectable anesthetic. After removing the decayed part of a tooth, the dentist will apply an adhesive and the filling material. Composite fillings require the use of a special binding light to harden the resin. The last step is polishing the tooth to create a smooth, even surface. 

What Is A Dental Crown?

Like a filling, a crown is a type of dental restoration. It can also fill a space left behind by a cavity. Dentists also use crowns to repair damage caused by an injury or bruxism (excessive teeth grinding). A crown caps the tooth, covering more space than a regular filling.

Different types of crowns, such ¾ varieties and onlays, will cover less of the tooth than a full crown. Along with the size or type of crown, these caps are also made of different materials. The most popular options are metal (gold, chromium, nickel, or palladium), porcelain-fused-to-metal, resin, ceramic, or porcelain. Resin, ceramic, and porcelain are tooth-colored materials that provide a natural look. 

Instead of just drilling the tooth, the dentist will need to also reshape it. This step prepares the tooth for restoration. To create a naturally-shaped cap that fits your tooth, the dentist may use a special putty or a paste to make an impression. The dentist will send this impression to a laboratory. 

In the time between when the dentist sends away the impression and when they get your new cap back, you will need a temporary crown. Some dentists offer same-day crowns that don't require a temporary restoration or two separate appointments.