Dental crowns

Dental crowns are meant to cover damaged teeth, being used when it is no longer possible to rely on fillings. Placed on top of the teeth, dental crowns restore their shape and serve as protection against further damage. As you will see for yourself, they can be made from a wide array of materials, including ceramic, resin, porcelain, and metal. The dentist will highlight the importance of maintaining excellent oral hygiene, but other than that, dental crowns do not require any special care. If you are interested in discovering more information on the subject, just keep on reading.

What is a dental crown?

With the passing of time, our teeth can suffer from various types of damage, with causes such as physical injuries, wear and tear process, tooth decay, etc. Both the shape and size can suffer because of such issues. A dental crown is actually a tooth-shaped cap, which is placed over a tooth, restoring its shape and size. The strength of the tooth is guaranteed, as the dental crown is usually cemented in place.

As the dentist will inform you, there are many types of dental crowns available. Traditional crowns are meant to cover the entire tooth. However, there are also onlays and 3/4 crowns that might be appropriate. The latter do not cover all of the underlying tooth, being recommended in the situation that tooth structure is solid. This is a conservative approach in comparison to covering the tooth in full with a traditional crown. What happens is that the dentist will remove the damaged part of the tooth, reshaping the respective area to add the crown.

When is a dental crown necessary?

There are several reasons for which a dental crown might be necessary. For instance, if the respective tooth is weak or has decay; the crown will prevent it from breaking or will reduce the risk of further cracks. Dental crowns can be used to restore broken- or worn-down teeth, but also to cover and support a tooth that has a large filling. They can support a dental bridge, cover teeth that are misshapen or severely discolored. Of course, crowns can cover dental implants or teeth that have been treated with a root canal.

How much do dental crowns cost?

The cost of a dental crown depends on several factors, including the dentist’s office and the area in which you live. It might also be influenced by the training and experience of the dentist, chosen material, and oral health issues. If dental treatments are necessary before the actual placement of the crown, the overall cost will be higher.

When it comes to materials, it should be noted that porcelain crowns are the most expensive, especially in relation to gold crowns. The latter are, in their own turn, more costly than porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns. As you might see for yourself, the cost of a dental crown varies between $800 and $1,500. Dental insurance plans might cover only a part of the respective costs, so be sure to check with your insurance company beforehand.

What is a dental crown made of?

Dental crowns can be made out of different materials, but the most common ones include metal, porcelain-fused-to-metal, resin, ceramic/porcelain, and pressed ceramic. Metal crowns can be made from a mixture of metals, including chromium, nickel, palladium, or gold. They are known for their resistance over time, as they rarely suffer chips or breaks. To place these, only a small amount of the respective tooth has to be removed. Moreover, metal crowns can withstand both biting and chewing. Main disadvantage? The metallic color. This is also the reason why these crowns are often used in back molars.

The porcelain-fused-to-metal version retains the advantages of metal crowns, but it has a satisfactory aesthetic appearance and can be easily matched to the other teeth. It can happen that the metal under the porcelain is visible, not to mention that such crowns present a risk of chipping or breaking. The crown might also cause the other teeth to wear down. In general, it is used for front or back teeth. Resin crowns are known for their affordable prices, but they present a higher risk of breaking and wearing down over the course of time.

From an aesthetic point of view, ceramic or porcelain crowns stand at the top of list, being suitable for those who suffer from metal allergies. Nonetheless, it is important to note that these are not as resistant as the other options. Wearing down the other teeth is also a distinct possibility. When chosen, they are used for the front teeth. Pressed ceramic crowns have a sturdy inner core, being capped with porcelain, which guarantees the desired aesthetic appearance and a natural color match. They last longer than the crowns made exclusively from porcelain.

How is a dental crown done?

The dentist will perform an initial assessment of the tooth for which the crown will be made. X-rays might be taken, not only of the respective tooth, but also of the bone around it. Certain dental treatments might be necessary before the actual crown procedure, especially if there is tooth decay, infection, or the pulp has been injured.

The tooth will be filed down, across the top and on the sides, so as to make space for the crown. How much of the tooth will be filed away? This depends on the type of crown you will be recommended. If you are going with a metal crown, you won’t need as much of the tooth removed. On the other hand, for porcelain or porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns, the tooth might be filed more. Should the most part of the tooth be absent, either to previous damage or decay, the dentist might use filling material to “improve” the tooth structure.

Once the dentist is done with the reshaping, he/she will use a special paste to make an impression of the respective tooth. It will be necessary to make impressions of the teeth above and below the tooth about to receive a dental crown. The main goal here is to ensure that the crown will not influence your bite. The impressions are then sent to the dental lab and used for the making of the crowns. In the meantime, the dentist might fit you with a temporary crown, in order to protect the tooth in question until the permanent crown is placed.

You will need to return to the dentist’s office and have the permanent crown placed on your tooth. The dentist will remove the temporary crown and check to see if the permanent one fits as intended. Local anesthesia might be used to cement the new crown in place. It is also possible to have the dental crowns made in the dentist’s office. Initially, any signs of decay will be removed, and the tooth will be reshaped. The dentist will use a computer software program to create a 3D model of the respective tooth, with a special machine creating the ceramic crown. Once ready, it will be cemented into place as well.

Are there any issues associated with dental crowns?

Even though dental crowns are quite resistant and easily accepted by the body, it is possible to experience certain issues. For instance, a newly crowned tooth might cause discomfort, with increased sensitivity immediately after the procedure. This happens if the respective tooth still has the nerve in it, causing one to experience sensitivity to extreme temperature. You can ease some of the discomfort experienced by using a toothpaste for sensitive teeth. The wrong placement of the crown might lead to pain or sensitivity when biting down, so you might need to re-visit the dentist and have it re-adjusted.

The crowns that are made from materials such as porcelain are susceptible to chipping. If the chip is small, then the crown can be repaired, and it does not need to be replaced. The dentist might suggest a replacement if the respective chip is significant or there are too many chips affecting the crown’s structure. As mentioned, dental crowns are maintained in place with the help of cement. If this slowly washes out, the crown can become loose and bacteria might reach the tooth, leading to further decay. If the dental crown feels loose, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, it can also happen that the dental crown falls off, especially if it hasn’t been placed correctly and not enough cement was used. The dentist will need to re-cement the crown back in place or make a new crown, as the case might be. Until the said appointment, you might be given specific tips on how to care for both your tooth and dental crown. If you have a metal crown, there is a definite risk of an allergic reaction. It is for the best to discuss such matters with your dentist before the actual placement of the crown. Upon seeing a dark line on the crowned tooth, you should not worry; this is only the metal behind the porcelain and it does not mean that the crown is not good.

What is the lifespan of a crown?

Depending on the material and the quality of work, a dental crown can last between five and fifteen years. Of course, there are certain factors influencing the lifespan of a crown, including the normal wear and tear process, oral hygiene, and personal habits. Crowns are more liable to chip or break if you are grinding or clenching your teeth frequently. The same goes for those who are biting their fingernails, using teeth to open various packages, or love eating hard or chewy foods. The dentist might be able to offer additional advice on how to prolong the lifespan of your crown, starting with good oral hygiene habits.

How should I take care of my crowned tooth?

As the dentist will point out, crowned tooth does not require any special care. Nonetheless, this does not mean that the underlying tooth should be forgotten, as the risk of decay or gum disease is still present. You will be advised to maintain excellent oral hygiene habits, including brushing your teeth and flossing. Pay attention to use the floss especially in the area where the gum meets the crowned tooth. Of course, it will not hurt to avoid eating hard foods, especially if you have a porcelain crown. This is the simplest thing you can do, in order to avoid potential cracks or chips, thus extending the lifespan of your crown.

Frequently asked questions

How is a certain material selected?

In recommending a certain material for the dental crown, the dentist will consider several factors, including the location of the tooth, how much of the tooth will be revealed when smiling or talking, gum tissue, tooth function, tooth structure and volume, natural color of the surrounding teeth. Of course, your personal preferences will be considered as well.

How is a temporary crown kept into place?

Unlike a permanent dental crown, which is cemented in place, temporary crowns are placed over the tooth with a special adhesive. While this will hold until the permanent crown is placed, you have to remember that it is not strong. Pay attention to the foods you are eating, so as not to displace it. Flossing should be done gently as well.

Are there other alternatives to dental crowns?

The dentist will recommend the dental crown as the best alternative for your individual situation. However, you might also benefit from veneers, which are placed on the frontal part of the tooth. Always discuss your options and the benefits incurred with your dentist, so as to make sure that you are benefitting from the best possible treatment.

As you have seen, dental crowns can help you have a satisfying and healthy smile. They are necessary if the teeth have suffered from damage or decay and are easily placed. In addition, they do not require any special care, other from good oral hygiene. Unfortunately, insurance plans cover only a part of the treatment, so make sure to check with your provider before actually going through with it. And remember, you can choose between different materials, asking your dentist for his/her professional opinion.

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