Crowns vs. Implants: Which Is Best for You?

Crowns and implants are common dental procedures. Learn which one might make the most sense for your given dental situation.

January 20, 2023
Crowns vs. Implants: Which Is Best for You?

While you work to keep your teeth shiny and in top shape every single day, certain habits can make cavities and tooth decay an inevitability. And while cavities can be painful and frustrating, plenty of techniques can bring you relief safely and effectively.

The goal of any treatment is to try to preserve your natural teeth, but there are times when you might need to get a tooth extracted due to severe decay. No matter what, you can use crowns or implants to your advantage to help you look and feel better than ever before.

But crowns and implants might only be applicable in certain situations, depending on your case. Here is everything you need to know about crowns vs. implants, as well as which one is best for you.

What Are Crowns?

Crowns are aptly named because they are sort of like little caps that go on top of damaged teeth. They are cemented onto the tooth to protect the natural tooth underneath from further damage.

You might need a crown for a number of reasons, including:

  • Restoring a broken or severely worn down tooth.
  • Protecting a weak tooth from decaying or breaking.
  • Supporting a tooth with a large filling.
  • Supporting a tooth without much of the original tooth remaining.
  • Holding a dental bridge in place.
  • Covering a dental implant.
  • Covering a tooth that’s had a root canal.
  • Covering a severely discolored tooth.

Crowns can be made of many different materials, with the most common being metal, porcelain fused to metal, and resin. Metal crowns are the most durable, though they are also the most noticeable and look dissimilar to your natural teeth. Resin crowns look just like real teeth, though they are not as durable.

What To Expect During a Crown Procedure

During the first visit to a dentist, you’ll get x-rays and an examination by your dentist to make sure that a crown is applicable. Your dentist may need to do a root canal to remove infected pulp if there’s a risk of infection or tooth decay on the tooth.

The tooth that’s getting a crown is then filed down on the top and all sides in order to make room for the crown to be placed. If too much of your tooth is missing to support a crown, they will likely use a filling material to build up enough structure to hold the crown together.

After the tooth is reshaped, the tooth that’s going to receive the crown is copied with an impression. This helps ensure that the crown won’t affect your bite. After the impressions are sent to a lab, a permanent crown is sent back to the dentist within two to three weeks. During that waiting period, you’ll be given a temporary crown to cover and protect the tooth.

Once your permanent crowns are created, they’ll be placed on the tooth. In some cases, you might get a same-day dental crown. These are made in a dentist’s office and can be placed within just one day. The process starts the same, but a special machine is used in the office to scan your teeth and create a new tooth in just about 15 minutes.

Pros and Cons of Dental Crowns

Dental crowns can be very useful for restoring the structure and function of an existing tooth, but they come with their fair share of drawbacks.

Pros of Dental Crowns:

  • They prevent further decay and damage to a tooth.
  • They hold a cracked tooth in place.
  • They can support an existing tooth that has been damaged by decay.
  • They are a much more cost-effective option, especially compared to implants.
  • The process requires a very little recovery period after placement.
  • You get to keep your original tooth.
  • They can be used to hold dental bridges in place.

Cons of Dental Crowns:

  • This is an irreversible procedure because the tooth must be filed down before it is placed.
  • You run the risk of heightened teeth sensitivity after placement.
  • Crowns are not permanent — they need to be replaced every five to 15 years, depending on how well you care for them.
  • Crowns might not fit properly, causing discomfort and extra trips to the dentist.

What Are Implants?

Dental implants are a procedure used to replace missing or extracted teeth. These implants are surgically placed into the jawbone, where a titanium post serves as the root of the missing tooth. Dental implants are fused to the bone, so you don’t need to worry about them slipping or sliding around. Plus, the materials in an implant can’t decay like bridges or crowns.

Dental implants are important if you’ve lost an adult tooth because gaps in your mouth can cause problems down the road. Your jaw is constantly changing and adapting. So, if there is a gap in your teeth, the teeth will move toward each other to try to fill that gap naturally. This can lead to speech, bite, and other oral difficulties down the road.

What To Expect During an Implant Procedure

First, you and your dentist will work together to prepare. You’ll get a comprehensive dental exam that includes 3D imaging before discussing treatment options and reviewing your medical history.

Then, the procedure begins. Note that it can take months from start to finish before your implant is fully healed and ready to go.

If there is any portion of the tooth remaining, it will be extracted. You’ll be given local anesthesia so that you won’t feel anything more than a little tug. After that, your jawbone is grafted if needed.

If your jawbone is not thick enough, you’ll need a bone graft so the jaw can support your implant in place. Without a sturdy foundation, the implant would fail.

Dentists might do a natural bone graft by taking bone from another location of the body. Or, they might substitute a material that can provide support for the implant. Either way, it can take several months for a transplanted bone to grow enough to support the new implant.

Once it’s determined that your jaw is ready, the implant is placed. They do this by cutting open the gum and drilling holes into the bone where the implant should be placed. This metal root is placed deep into the bone, just like true nerves. A partial or temporary denture is placed on top for appearance.

Next, the process of osseointegration takes place, which is where the jawbone grows and joins with the surface of the implant. Again, this can take several months. But once it has fully healed, the abutment (false) tooth is placed over the root — and you’re good to go.

Pros and Cons of Dental Implants

Dental implants can make your smile look brand new if you’ve lost a tooth for one reason or another, but it is also a very complex procedure.

Pros:

  • This procedure can last forever without needing to be replaced.
  • Implants look just like natural teeth.
  • Implants can be used to replace as many teeth as needed.
  • Implants do not require special care like dentures or bridges.

Cons:

  • You need a strong jawbone to support them.
  • These are costly, especially compared to dentures or crowns.
  • They take a long time to place and heal from start to finish.

When Should You Get Crowns Instead of Implants?

Your dentist will always have a better idea of which treatment is right for you based on your individual needs. But in general, crowns are a more inexpensive option compared to implants, so they will likely be recommended first by your dentist.

When possible, it is always a good idea to preserve your natural tooth. Crowns allow you to do so while still preventing further damage and decay that might have been caused by a cavity.

You can use crowns to form a dental bridge, which also serves to fill in the gap caused by a lost tooth. With a bridge, crowns are placed on two teeth on either side of the gap, with a false tooth in the center. These are less expensive than an implant, though they are not as long-lasting and will need to be replaced within about ten to fifteen years.

If you need a quick solution, crowns might be a better option compared to implants. This is because some crowns can be placed on the same day. Even if it takes a bit longer, it usually will not be more than a few weeks before your crown is fully placed, while an implant can take several months.

When Should You Get Implants Instead of Crowns?

Implants are a permanent solution if you’ve lost a tooth. Since crowns can only help support an existing tooth, implants might be a good idea if you need to get a tooth extracted or if you lost a tooth from trauma. 

Implants are expensive, but the initial investment might be worth it because these can last forever. They are even stronger than a real tooth, so it’s basically indestructible from future damage or decay.

Implants look and feel like natural teeth, and since the root is removed, you don’t need to worry about extra sensitivity or discomfort that is sometimes apparent with crowns.

Does Insurance Cover Crowns and Implants?

One similarity between crowns and implants is that both can run a high price tag. The out-of-pocket costs can run upwards of $1,500 and $30,000 per tooth, respectively. That’s completely inaccessible for most people. 

Since these procedures are used to treat and prevent oral health problems, most insurance companies will cover the cost of most or all of these surgeries. However, considering the monthly premiums and hidden fees associated with insurance, it’s hard to know how much you’re actually saving.

Not to mention, over 33% of Americans do not have dental insurance, leaving them without the ability to pay for these costs in the first place. But you shouldn’t need to worry about the price of treatment — your oral health comes first and foremost.

No Insurance? Perfect.

If you don’t have dental insurance, that doesn’t mean you need to go without the care you want or need. Flossy is a pay-as-you-go service that charges you for the services you get and nothing you don’t. No annual fees, no monthly premiums, and no hidden fees.

From crowns to implants, from routine cleanings to teeth whitening, we can save you up to 50% on the out-of-pocket costs associated with dental care. There’s no waiting period, so you can sign up today and get access to care right away.

But don’t worry; our dentists are rigorously vetted against a set of strict criteria to ensure quality care. All of our providers have accreditation from top dental schools, excellent patient reviews, and access to the best new technology to keep up with new techniques.

It’s time to stop worrying about price and start worrying about what matters most. Find a dentist in your area and get started toward the smile you’ve been waiting for.

Alternatives to Crowns and Implants

Crowns and implants are not the only options to fix underlying problems with your teeth. If your tooth decay is minor, you can likely get away with just a filling. With a filling, only the infected portion of the tooth is drilled away, and it is then re-filled with a tooth-colored amalgam to restore the look and function of your tooth.

Dental bridges are a combination treatment that uses the concepts of both crowns and implants. Teeth surrounding the missing tooth are filed down, and an abutment crown is placed on top, while a false tooth falls over the missing gap like a bridge, covering up the empty space.

Dentures are also an inexpensive alternative to implants. These are removable teeth that can replace all or just some missing teeth to restore the structure and function. While dentures have a tendency to slip around and fit abnormally, they are much less expensive and permanent when compared to implants.

In Conclusion

Crowns are tiny caps that go on your teeth to prevent further damage or decay, whereas implants are used to replace missing teeth outright. Both have their place for specific circumstances, though crowns are likely to be recommended if your original tooth can be saved.

Implants are a safe and effective procedure if extraction is inevitable; just know that they run a steep price tag. But don’t let the price of dental care get in the way of your ability to access it. Flossy is a pay-as-you-go service where you only pay for the services you receive — even without insurance.

Book your appointment today and give yourself something to smile about.

Sources:

Dental Crowns: What Are They, Types, Procedure & Care | Cleveland Clinic

Dental implant surgery | The Mayo Clinic

Osseointegration Clinic | Johns Hopkins Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Dental coverage, access & outcomes | ADA