Getting a dental crown can restore a damaged or worn-down tooth and improve its appearance and function. Crowns protect weak teeth and can look very natural if properly matched to your existing teeth. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about dental crowns.
What is a Dental Crown?
A dental crown is a cap or cover placed over a tooth to restore its shape, size, strength, and appearance. Crowns can be made from various materials like porcelain, ceramic, metal alloys, or a combination of materials.
Crowns protect damaged, cracked, or broken teeth and can make a discolored tooth look whiter. They are used to hold together parts of a cracked tooth, protect a tooth with a large filling, cap a dental implant, or cover a misshapen or severely discolored tooth.
You Need to Know About Getting a Dental Crown
There are several reasons why your dentist may recommend getting a dental crown:
Protect a Weak Tooth
If a tooth is severely broken down, weakened by decay, or has a very large filling, a crown will protect what remains of the tooth from further damage.
Hold Together Cracked or Broken Teeth
Crowns can hold chunks of a cracked tooth together, preventing it from fracturing further or breaking apart completely. It acts like a cap keeping all the pieces together.
Cover Dental Implants
Crowns are often used to top dental implants. The crown replaces the visible part of the tooth while the dental implant fuses to the jawbone, anchoring it firmly in place.
Improve Appearance of Discolored Teeth
Crowns can cover teeth severely discolored by medications, injury, or calcification to improve their appearance. Veneers are another option, but crowns provide more protection.
Restore Normal Bite and Chewing
If a tooth is very worn down, a crown will rebuild it to its normal shape and size. This restores your bite alignment and lets you chew properly.
Who Needs a Dental Crown?
You may be a good candidate for getting one or more dental crowns if you have:
- Large cavities that are too big for fillings
- Fractured or broken teeth
- Teeth worn down by grinding or acid erosion
- Discolored front teeth you want to improve for cosmetic reasons
- A dental bridge or tooth implant that needs to be anchored
Getting a root canal also often requires getting a crown afterwards since the tooth is left more fragile and prone to fracture without the root canal procedure.
|Moderate, prone to fracture
|Metal interior, porcelain exterior
|Excellent, lasts 10-15 years+
|Poor for front teeth
|Cobalt-chromium or nickel-chromium alloy
|Poor – dark gray color
|Poor – wears fastest
Types of Dental Crowns
There are several types of crowns made from different materials. Your dentist will recommend the best type of crown depending on factors like location, durability needed, aesthetics, and cost.
Porcelain crowns mimic the appearance of natural teeth well while providing adequate strength. However, they may wear down opposing teeth over time. They are not recommended for the back grinding teeth.
These crowns have an inner metal structure for strength capped by porcelain outer layer for aesthetics. The metal foundation makes them very durable for back molars. Porcelain may chip over time but the crown can still function.
Gold crowns are very durable and can last over a decade. Their metallic shade stands out less on back teeth but they can look unnatural on front teeth.
Stainless Steel Crowns
Primarily used on baby (primary) teeth as a temporary crown because they are very hard wearing and low cost. They have a shiny metallic appearance that may not suit everyone.
Zirconia crowns are made from a very strong ceramic that fuses shaded porcelain to its exterior to look natural. Their strength makes them suitable for teeth that take a lot of pressure. They can be made very thin too compared to other crowns.
Metallic Alloy Crowns
Crowns can be cast from cobalt-chromium alloys or nickel-chromium alloys to balance cost, ease of manufacture, and durability. They are less prone to fracturing but their dark shade stands out.
Resin or Composite Crowns
Composite resin crowns have a tooth colored exterior that can be quickly sculpted and hardened in one dental visit. However, they wear down faster than other types of crowns.
Dental Crown Procedure
There are two main procedures for getting dental crowns:
Two-Step Procedure with Temporary Crown
This traditional approach uses two dentist visits to get fitted, takes impressions, and cement the permanent crown.
Initial visit: Tooth preparation
- Tooth is filed down to make space for the crown
- Impressions and measurements taken of prepared tooth
- Temporary crown placed over filed tooth for protection
Second visit: Permanent crown placement
- Dentist receives permanent custom crown for your tooth
- Temporary crown is removed
- Permanent crown is fitted and cemented into place
Single-Visit Dental Crown
Also called same-day crowns, these crowns leverage digital scans and onsite milling to prepare and place a custom crown within hours without needing a temporary crown.
The process involves:
- Tooth preparation and digital scan
- In-office CAD/CAM milling of permanent crown
- Custom crown fitting and cementing
Single dental crowns enable you to walk out with a permanent crown placed in just one long appointment. However, same-day crowns typically cost more and involve longer chair time. Not all dentists offer same-day crowns yet either.
How to Care for Your Dental Crown
Caring properly for your dental crowns will maximize their longevity. Recommended dental crown care tips include:
- Brush gently – Use a soft bristled toothbrush and avoid pressing too firmly near your crown
- Floss daily – This removes plaque and debris that can lead to decay or gum disease
- Avoid chewing hard foods/objects – This prevents damaging porcelain crowns or dislodging cemented crowns
- Wear a nightguard if you grind teeth – This prevents excess wear or cracking crowns while you sleep
- See your dentist regularly – Have any loosening, pain or damage assessed promptly
Let your dentist know promptly if a temporary or permanent crown feels loose, falls out or develops new pain, sensitivity or other problems.
How Much Do Dental Crowns Cost?
On average, dental crowns costs between $800 to $1700 per crown according to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry. However, prices can exceed $2000+ for certain materials like all-gold crowns.
Factors Affecting Dental Crown Costs
Several factors impact the price of getting a dental crown:
- Type of material – Gold and porcelain fused metals cost more than resin
- Extent of tooth preparation needed
- Laboratory fees – More complex cases incur higher fees
- Additional procedures – A root canal done together will increase fees
- Location and cost of living – Urban and coastal area dentistry is more expensive
Talk to your dentist about which crown materials suit your situation so you understand the expected costs. Those with dental insurance can expect it to cover 50-100% depending on their plan’s crown coverage allowance.
How Long Do Dental Crowns Last?
With proper oral care, the typical lifespan of a dental crown is 5-15 years. However some may last 20 years or longer. Factors affecting dental crown longevity include:
- Crown material
- Amount of biting pressure/stress on the tooth
- Quality of cementing job
- Oral hygiene and dental visits
- Accidents or teeth grinding habits
Well cared for porcelain-fused-to-metal and gold crowns tend to last the longest – often 15 years or more before needing replacement. All-ceramic or all-resin crowns usually last between 5-10 years with good care.
Problems or Complications with Dental Crowns
While generally safe and effective, complications can occasionally happen with dental crowns:
Mild temperature and pressure sensitivity is common initially but usually resolves within a few weeks. Occasionally however, sensitivity persists long term requiring crown adjustment or refitting.
Chipped or Cracked Crown
Brittle materials like porcelain may chip over time. This is mostly an aesthetic concern provided the base metal underneath is intact. Severely cracked crowns require replacement though.
Crown Falling Out
Crowns can detach if there is inadequate cement, decay develops underneath, or excessive biting force loosens it. Have loose crowns recemented or replaced promptly to prevent tooth damage.
Nickel or other components of metallic crowns rarely provoke localized gum inflammation and itchiness requiring replacement with a compatible material.
Need for Root Canal
If underlying tooth decay or root inflammation persists despite getting a crown, it may need root canal treatment to resolve the inflammation and infection.
Dental Crown vs Other Tooth Restorations
Fillings repair small to mid-sized tooth holes but are too weak alone in larger cavities. Crowns reinforce what remains around larger fillings.
Veneers improve front tooth appearance like crowns but require more natural tooth removal and provide lessprotection from fractures.
A dental bridge uses neighboring teeth as anchors for false teeth replacing any missing ones. Both crowns and bridges can replace missing teeth.
Dental implants screw into the jawbone like artificial tooth roots. They support single false teeth or bridges anchored to the implants.
Dental Crown Procedure Steps
Initial Dental Appointment
- Oral examination – Check for decay, cracks, etc that require crown
- Tooth numbing – Local anesthetic injected to numb tooth area
- Tooth preparation – Filing, shaping the tooth to fit inside a crown
- Bite impressions – Putty is used to imprint teeth alignment
- Temporary crown placement – Protects prepared tooth until getting permanent crown
Dental Lab Steps
- Impression pouring – Plaster model of your teeth made from initial imprints
- Crown fabrication – Model used to custom design then manufacture the dental crown
- Material selection – Choice of porcelain, zirconia, gold alloy etc based on position
- Color matching – The color is matched to surrounding teeth
Crown Delivery Appointment
- Test crown fit – Crown is tried on tooth to ensure accurate fit
- Adjustments & cementing – Final tweaks before permanently cementing on your tooth
- Bite assessment – You’ll bite down so dentist can check accurate alignment with opposite teeth
- Post-placement care – Instructions provided e.g. avoiding hard foods initially
Signs You Need a Crown
- Enamel worn very thin from brushing/acids
- Filling with not enough tooth structure left around it
- Cracked tooth with dentin showing through
- Graying or bleeding inside tooth near gumline
- Major chip or crack making the tooth very prone to further damage
These signs indicate the tooth will likely keep weakening or decaying without a protective crown. Get it assessed promptly to avoid losing the tooth altogether.
FAQs About Getting Dental Crowns
How long does it take to get a dental crown?
It takes 2-3 weeks from your first preparation appointment to getting your permanent crown cemented with a traditional indirect fabrication crown. One-visit same-day crowns can be placed within a few hours.
Does getting a crown hurt?
You’ll get local anesthesia so crown preparation and fitting should not hurt. Some sensitivity or discomfort is expected later as the anesthesia wears off but this usually resolves quickly.
Can you eat with temporary crown?
Avoid sticky, hard or chewy foods that could grab and dislodge the temporary crown. Softer nutritious foods that are unlikely to disturb the temporary crown can be slowly chewed on the opposite side of the mouth.
Do you need a crown after a root canal?
A root canal removes the soft pulp making the tooth brittle and prone to fracturing. Getting a crown helps protect the tooth from breaking in future so it is usually recommended after most root canals.
- Dental crowns protect damaged teeth and improve their appearance
- Options include porcelain, gold, zirconia, and porcelain-fused-to metal crowns
- Crowns last 5-15 years on average with proper dental care
- Complications are uncommon but include crown falling out, infections, sensitivity or cracks
- Crowns involve 1-2 dentist visits; same-day crowns allow single visit placement
Getting a quality dental crown to restore your damaged tooth can greatly benefit your oral health, function, and smile. Discuss your options with an experienced dentist to determine if a dental crown is right for your needs.
Written By Maleeha Shimu
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