Dental crowns, also known as “caps,” preserve the functionality of damaged teeth. A dental crown may be used to protect a cracked tooth, restore functionality of a tooth with excessive decay or replace a pre-existing crown. The purpose of a dental crown is to encase a needy tooth with a custom-designed material. Dentists today have a variety of conservative treatment options through which to restore teeth. If possible, these options should be explored and discussed before selecting the full coverage crown.
Why Is a Dental Crown Needed?
A dental crown may be needed in the following situations:
- To protect a weak tooth (for instance, from decay or after a Root Canal) from breaking or to hold together parts of a cracked tooth
- To restore an already broken tooth or a tooth that has been severely worn down
- To cover and support a tooth with a large filling when there isn’t a lot of tooth left
- To hold a dental bridge in place
- To cover misshaped or severely discolored teeth
- To cover a dental implant
- To make a cosmetic modification
What Types of Crowns Are Available?
Permanent crowns can be made from stainless steel, all metal (such as gold or another alloy), porcelain-fused-to-metal, all resin, or all ceramic.
- Stainless steel crowns are prefabricated crowns that are used on permanent teeth primarily as a temporary measure. The crown protects the tooth or filling while a permanent crown is made from another material. For children, a stainless steel crown is commonly used to fit over a primary tooth that’s been prepared to fit it. The crown covers the entire tooth and protects it from further decay. When the primary tooth comes out to make room for the permanent tooth, the crown comes out naturally with it. In general, stainless steel crowns are used for children’s teeth because they don’t require multiple dental visits to put in place and so are more cost- effective than custom-made crowns and prophylactic dental care needed to protect a tooth without a crown.
- Metals used in crowns include gold alloy, other alloys (for example, palladium), or a base-metal alloy (for example, nickel or chromium). Compared with other crown types, less tooth structure needs to be removed with metal crowns, and tooth wear to opposing teeth is kept to a minimum. Metal crowns withstand biting and chewing forces well and probably last the longest in terms of wear down. Also, metal crowns rarely chip or break. The metallic color is the main drawback. Metal crowns are a good choice for out-of-sight molars.
- Porcelain-fused-to-metal dental crowns can be color matched to your adjacent teeth (unlike the metallic crowns). However, more wearing to the opposing teeth occurs with this crown type compared with metal or resin crowns. The crown’s porcelain portion can also chip or break off. Next to all-ceramic crowns, porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns look most like normal teeth. However, sometimes the metal underlying the crown’s porcelain can show through as a dark line, especially at the gum line and even more so if your gums recede. These crowns can be a good choice for front or back teeth.
- All-ceramic or all-porcelain dental crowns provide better natural color match than any other crown type and may be more suitable for people with metal allergies. However, they are not as strong as porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns and they wear down opposing teeth a little more than metal or resin crowns. All-ceramic crowns are a good choice for front teeth.
- Zirconia which are digitally constructed either in an office that has the software and hardware to produce them or in a dental lab. They provide better natural color and matches to your existing teeth. They are as strong as metal crown and are a great option for the front teeth to provide a long lasting natural look and smile.
What to expect during the procedure?
- The first step of the dental crown procedure involves using a local anesthetic to numb the tooth and surrounding tissues. If you’ve had a root canal, your dentist may still likely choose to use anesthetic, because the instruments can come very close to the gingival tissue.
- Preparing the tooth for a dental crown involves removing very precise amounts of the tooth and filling material from the tooth that requires the crown.
- Accurate impressions of your prepared tooth is taken to be sent to the lab.
- The dentist will place a temporary crown over the prepared tooth.
- Your dentist will use a shade guide to record the exact color of your tooth with your consent.
- It generally takes the dental laboratory roughly ten to twelve days to make your permanent crown. Your dentist will ensure you have your cementation appointment scheduled before you leave the office after your tooth preparation appointment.
- When you return to the dental office to have your permanent crown cemented, the dentist will remove the temporary crown from the tooth.
- All of the temporary cement is removed from the tooth, and the tooth is completely dried.
- Your dentist will then try the permanent crown on the tooth. Using a piece of dental floss, your dentist will also check the contacts in between the crown and adjacent teeth to ensure there is an ideal contact between the teeth.
- When your dentist is satisfied with the fit of the crown, the final cementation process begins.
- Even though the dental laboratory made your dental crown to exact specification, set out by your dentist, there will be small adjustments that need to be made to ensure your new crown functions as it should
How to take care of my crown?
- After your permanent crown has been placed, your dentist will provide you with information about caring for your new restoration.
- In general, maintain proper oral hygiene habits by brushing twice daily and flossing with dental floss or interdental cleaners (specially designed brushes and sticks) once a day.
- These practices will help to remove plaque from the area where the crown meets the gum, and help prevent dental decay and gum disease.
- Avoid chewing hard foods, ice or other hard objects, since this could damage your crown.
- It also is important to avoid biting your fingernails and grinding your teeth, which could significantly shorten its life-span.
- If you habitually clench or grind your teeth, your dentist may recommend wearing a night-time mouth guard to offer protection while sleeping.
- It is also important that the tooth be in a healthy state to ensure its longevity.
- In all cases, your dentist will evaluate the gums and supporting bone structure to ensure these supporting tissues are healthy. This protects the tooth and minimizes the potential for eventual gum recession that exposes the crown margin.