What Are Crowns?
A dental crown is a tooth-shaped “cap” that covers a tooth to restore its shape and strength and improve its appearance. A crown fully encases the entire visible portion of a tooth above and at the gum line and protects the tooth during use. There are several types of crowns, though the most common have a porcelain exterior to match the appearance of natural teeth.
Types of dental crowns include:
- Stainless steel crowns are used on permanent teeth primarily as a temporary measure. The crown protects the tooth, while a permanent crown is made from another material. Stainless steel crowns are commonly used on children’s primary teeth because they don’t require multiple dental visits to put in place, they’re more cost-effective than custom-made crowns, and they’re durable. When the primary tooth comes out to make room for the permanent tooth, the crown naturally comes out.
- Metals used in crowns include alloys with a high content of gold or platinum or base-metal alloys. Metal crowns withstand biting and chewing forces well, rarely chip or break, and often last the longest in terms of wear. The metallic color — and the high price of gold — are the main drawbacks.
- Porcelain fused to metal dental crowns can be color-matched to your adjacent teeth and offer good strength and durability, though the crown’s porcelain portion can chip or break if subjected to chewing of hard foods or dental trauma. Next to all-porcelain crowns, porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns look the most like natural teeth. However, the metal underlying the crown’s porcelain can sometimes show through as a dark line, especially at the gum line, and even more so if your gums recede.
- All-resin dental crowns are less expensive than other crown types, though they look less like natural teeth than porcelain-exterior crowns. All-resin crowns also wear down over time and are more prone to fractures than other crown types.
- All-porcelain or all-ceramic dental crowns provide a better natural color match than any other crown type and may be more suitable for people with metal allergies, though they aren’t as strong and durable as porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns.
When Are Crowns Used?
Your dentist may recommend a crown to:
- Restore a broken or severely worn down tooth
- Cover and support a tooth with a large filling when there isn’t a lot of tooth left
- Protect a tooth that’s been weakened by decay
- Cover a misshapen or severely discolored tooth
- Hold a dental bridge in place
- Cover a dental implant
Pros and cons of crowns compared to dental implants or veneers:
- Crowns are less invasive and much more affordable than dental implants
- Crowns may not last as long as implants
- Crowns provide stronger protection to the tooth than veneers
- Crowns require the removal of more natural tooth than veneers
What Should I Expect When Getting a Crown Done?
A crown procedure involves preparing the tooth by first reducing the surface area of the whole tooth, so the crown fits over it and looks natural. With traditional crowns, the reduced tooth is used to make an impression that is sent to a dental lab, which creates a custom-designed crown. The patient will wear a temporary crown until the permanent crown is ready. Temporary crowns are typically made of acrylic and can be created in your dentist’s office; they’re held in place by temporary cement.
Once the permanent crown is ready, the patient returns for a second visit, where the temporary crown is removed and the permanent crown is cemented in place.
CEREC® Crowns vs Traditional Dental Crowns
CEREC® stands for Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics. This same-day dental technology helps dentists streamline making a crown, restoring a patient’s smile in a single visit.
CEREC® utilizes computer-aided design, also known as CAD-CAM technology, to scan your teeth using a 3D camera. The image data is then sent to an in-office machine in our dental service that mills the crown from a ceramic block. The milling process can take only a few minutes, after which your dentist can place it.
This same-day service makes getting a crown easier than ever!
How Do I Care for My Crown?
When properly cared for, a dental crown can last up to 15 years. Crowns can be taken care of by regular brushing and flossing. The tooth beneath the crown is still susceptible to decay if you don’t maintain good oral hygiene — if the tooth beneath a crown decays, the crown must be removed so the tooth can be treated.
Some habits, such as grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw, can significantly shorten the life of a crown. Ask your dentist about treating these behaviors. Hard or brittle foods can also damage the crown and should be avoided.