As much as you may try to avoid it, there is a fairly good chance you will require a dental crown at some point over the course of your life. A dental crown is a type of cap that is used to cover and protect a weak tooth. Crowns provide protection for a tooth compromised by injury or decay, restoring the size, shape, and color of the tooth before it was damaged. Some people are nervous about getting a crown, especially if they have never had one before. But it is a pretty straightforward procedure. In fact, the average dental practice in the United States places 13 single-tooth crowns per month. So, if your dentist tells you that you need a crown, don’t panic! Read on to get answers to some of the questions that are probably running through your mind.

Why Do People Need Dental Crowns?

Permanent dental crowns are used to strengthen a tooth that is damaged for any number of reasons. Sometimes getting a crown is the best way to restore your smile, not to mention your overall oral health! Some of the more common reasons are:

  • Tooth Decay – If your tooth has a large cavity that will require a lot of filling material. A large filling can make your tooth incredibly weak and susceptible to even more damage.
  • Trauma – If you have a damaged tooth, or a broken tooth, a dental crown can restore it back to its original strength and shape.
  • Root Canal – After undergoing a root canal, your tooth is left in a weakened state. It’s also more vulnerable to infection.
  • Worn Enamel or Damaged Cusps – If your teeth suffer from sensitivity from severely worn enamel or if the cusps are worn down or damaged, a crown can restore the original shape of the tooth. This makes chewing easier and also can cure severe tooth sensitivity.
  • Cosmetic Reasons – If you have misshapen teeth, getting a crown is often less expensive than getting a veneer done, and will last you longer.

What does a dental crown look like?

The appearance of your dental crown depends on the kind of crown you get. Crowns can be made from several different types of materials, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Your dentist will make the best recommendation for your needs, but here’s an overview of your choices:

  • A Gold Crown is the quintessential ‘gold tooth’ of old. Of course, these crowns are not made of gold, but a combination of other metals including copper and nickel. These crowns have fallen out of favor because they are not as aesthetically pleasing as other types of dental crowns now available. However, gold crowns are very strong and often less pricey than their prettier counterparts. Metal crowns also break down much more slowly, more on par with how your natural enamel endures. They might be a good option for posterior crowns (used on the back teeth).
  • Porcelain-Fused-to-Metal Crowns are very common in the dental industry. Porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns are covered with white porcelain to make it look like a normal tooth. These types of crowns are very strong, because they still have a metal component to them, but are more aesthetically pleasing because they blend right with your other teeth. One distinguishing characteristic of a porcelain-fused-to-metal crown is a darkening of the crown toward the gum line, where the metal shows through the porcelain. Note that if you are someone who tends to clench your teeth, this crown may wear down more easily than an all-metal type.
  • Porcelain Crowns are made entirely of porcelain, with no metal support structure. They are the most common type of crown for a number of reasons. First, because they are entirely made of ceramic porcelain, these ceramic crowns are able to closely mimic the look of your natural tooth in color, shape, and size. Many also prefer that they are metal-free, which gives them a feeling of being more bio-compatible. These types of crowns are not quite as long-lasting as their metal counterparts, but most people feel it’s worth the trade for a crown that looks just like a natural tooth.
  • Zirconia Crowns are newer to the market and therefore quite a bit more money than other types of crowns. They are made from a composite material, and extremely strong and natural-looking. They are easier to manufacture as well because they are often cut at your dental practice as opposed to being sent out to a lab. The biggest disadvantage of zirconia crowns is that they are so strong, they can easily wear down your other teeth. Even so, because of their strength and perfect aesthetics, they are growing in popularity.

How do dental crowns work?

If your dentist has completed your examination and recommended a crown, you’re probably curious about what to expect. The procedure can change based on the type of crown you are getting, but in general, the steps are pretty straightforward. First, your dentist will numb the area so you don’t feel any pain during the procedure. They will then clean out any old filling material or decay that remains in the tooth. Once the tooth is cleared of debris, your dentist will file the tooth down, creating a nub that the crown will cover.

The dentist will then take a mold of the prepared tooth and the surrounding teeth to provide a model for the laboratory to create your crown from. They will then place a temporary crown made from a special resin over your trimmed tooth to protect it while waiting for your permanent crown to be ready. You need to be very careful with a temporary crown, as resin crowns are not meant to stand up to much wear and tear. Try to avoid chewing gum and eating other sticky foods. If you are lucky, your dentist may be able to create dental crowns right in their office, negating the need for a temporary crown to be placed.

If your permanent crown is made in a laboratory, you can expect it to take a week or two to come back. When your crown is ready, you will visit your dentist once again for your crown to be cemented into place.

How long do dental crowns last?

Depending on the material used and how well you take care of your dental health, dental crowns should last anywhere from five to fifteen years. Making sure you brush twice a day and taking care of your gum tissue by flossing once a day goes a long way. It’s also imperative that you are careful when eating hard foods, and never use your teeth as a tool to open things. If you take care of it, your dental crown will last you a good long time.

If you’re experiencing any pain and think it might might be related to an injured or decaying tooth, contact us to schedule an appointment.

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