When you have to have a tooth repaired you have a few different options. The most common choices are to get a crown put on or to have a filling put in. Depending on the specifics of your situation, each option has its pros and cons.
Crowns are structures that are actually placed over the top of the tooth. They are usually used in situations where the decay is more extensive. Occasionally, there will simply not be enough of the tooth left to adequately hold a filling in place, so your dentist may recommend the use of a crown.
Crowns are also used in situations where the entire tooth is weakened. As you can imagine, chewing places a tremendous amount of stress on the structure of the tooth, and if the tooth is weakened, then putting in a filling will do little to prevent further structural breakdown of the tooth.
Using a crown can sometimes save a tooth which might otherwise have to be pulled out. Crowns are frequently applied after a root canal in order to save the tooth and strengthen it.
Fillings are usually used when the decay is not too extensive and the tooth is otherwise healthy. The dentist will drill out the decayed area and fill the gap with a composite material. In years past fillings were typically a metallic mixture, but with today’s technology there are many natural-colored alternatives available, including ceramic or porcelain.
Although a filling is generally faster and cheaper, it does require that the tooth in which it is placed be somewhat healthy and strong (aside from the area of decay). If the tooth is not strong, then putting a filling in place will do little to preserve the integrity of the tooth, and you will likely crack or break it at some point down the line.
What’s best for you?
Ultimately, each situation must be determined on a case-by-case basis. If your tooth is giving you pain you need to see a dentist immediately. If you catch it early enough, you could avoid needing more extensive—and more expensive! —work down the road.