Difference between a cap vs filling

Difference between a cap vs filling

Always wondered what the dentist meant when they started mentioning caps or crowns? Or maybe you want a little more information on what a white filling is and what the difference between caps and fillings really are? If this is you, look no further.

Crowns or “Caps”:

Crowns, or caps as they are sometimes known, are restorations that are custom made for each patient and each tooth. They can protect or improve the appearance of your teeth and strengthen weak, cracked or decayed teeth. They also help to repair badly damaged teeth that may be chipped or discoloured and can even fix broken down fillings. A versatile dental crown returns teeth to their natural colour and shape and covers them above the gum line. They can be used on any tooth and can reshape your teeth to enhance your smile!


Modern white fillings may differ to what your saw as a child or what your parents may even have today! In the past, silver amalgam – or even mercury – were used for fillings and they were extremely visible in the mouth. Not only that, but they were generally aesthetically unattractive.

Nowadays, white fillings come in a very natural finish that is aesthetically pleasing and doesn’t use mercury. These are easily molded and don’t contribute to worse long-term dental health like the older silver fillings.
Fillings are used to seal cavities and involves drilling of the cavity to remove any decaying tooth or damaged material. Unfortunately, this can sometimes cause pain in patients. However, with the new modern composite white filling, less of the tooth needs to be removed to put in place a dental filling.

According to Care Family Dental Toorak dentist, when looking at the difference between getting a cap and a filling, there are a few things you should consider. Generally, for minor tooth decay (like from drinking a few too many sugary drinks), a dentist will use a dental filling. A filling can be completed in one visit and might only cost a fraction of the price of a crown. But, fillings can break which may force you to make appointment after appointment to fix them. Crowns generally strengthen your own tooth and can be custom shaded to match the color of your other teeth.
Whatever dental solution you need, your dentist will be able to help with any questions and figure exactly what your teeth require for the ultimate smile!

Our dental clinics are spread across Melbourne and we service patients across Melbourne in areas such as Toorak, South Yarra, Malvern, Braybrook, Port Melbourne, Albert Park, Templestowe, Armadale, and other surrounding suburbs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Filling or Cap Better for a Tooth?

Choosing between a dental filling and a dental crown depends on factors like cavity size, tooth condition, broken or cracked teeth, and previous root canal treatment. Fillings are suited for smaller cavities, while crowns are ideal for larger cavities, structurally compromised teeth, broken or cracked teeth, and teeth following a root canal. Your dentist will assess these factors to determine the most suitable treatment.

Can I Get a Cap Instead of a Filling?

Dental crowns (or caps) and fillings serve different purposes in dental care. Dental fillings are used for smaller cavities by removing decay and filling the space, preserving natural tooth structure. Dental crowns are reserved for extensively damaged or weakened teeth, offering protection, strength, and improved appearance. They may replace large fillings if a tooth’s structure is compromised. Consult your dentist for the best treatment option based on your tooth’s condition to ensure long-term dental health.

Do You Need Both a Filling and a Crown?

In certain situations, a tooth may necessitate both a filling and a crown. The tooth’s specific condition determines this:

  • Large Cavity: When a tooth has extensive decay, a dentist may use a filling to restore missing tooth structure. If the tooth’s integrity is compromised, a crown is added for support and protection.
  • Fractured Tooth: A filling repairs the immediate area for cracked or significantly fractured teeth, but a crown may be added to safeguard the entire tooth from further damage.
  • Root Canal Treatment: After a root canal weakens the tooth, a crown is often used to reinforce and shield it.

The decision hinges on the tooth’s state and the dentist’s evaluation, ensuring its long-term health, function, and appearance.

Are Caps or Fillings More Expensive?

Dental filling and crown costs vary due to materials, tooth location, and dentist fees. In general, crowns are pricier for several reasons:

  • Material Costs: Crowns use more expensive materials like porcelain than fillings, often made from metal or resin.
  • Labor and Time: Crown placement is more intricate and time-consuming, involving extensive tooth preparation and custom fabrication.
  • Laboratory Fees: Creating custom crowns adds to costs due to laboratory fees.
  • Location and Dentist Expertise: Expenses may vary depending on location and the dentist’s skill level.
  • Private Health Cover: Depending on whether or not dental is included in your cover, the out-of-pocket cost of crowns may differ.

Discuss costs with your dentist, explore insurance coverage, and inquire about financing options for managing expenses.

Why Do You Need a Crown on Tooth?

Dental crowns are essential for several reasons:

  • Tooth Decay:Shields and reinforces extensively decayed teeth.
  • Fractured or Cracked Tooth:Stabilises and safeguards fractured teeth.
  • Root Canal Treatment:Strengthens teeth after root canals.
  • Large Fillings:Supports teeth with large fillings, preventing damage.
  • Cosmetic Enhancement:Improves the appearance of misshapen or discoloured teeth.
  • Tooth Replacement:Used in dental bridges and implants.
  • Protection for Weak Teeth:Safeguards structurally compromised teeth.

Crowns are tailored and can be made from various materials, chosen based on tooth location and patient preferences. They ensure functionality, prevent further damage, and enhance aesthetics when needed.

How Much Tooth Needs to Be Left for a Crown?

A minimum of two millimetres of healthy tooth structure is typically required to place a dental crown. This means that at least one-quarter of the visible portion of the tooth must be present and in good condition to support the crown effectively; in cases where less than this is available, it might not provide ample room for restoration or could potentially lead to complications, including fracture risk.

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