Dental Crown – Procedure And Problems

What Is A Dental Crown?

A dental crown is a cap that sits over a tooth or an implant to completely cover it.  A crown may be used to restore a broken tooth to bring it back to its natural size and shape.  A number of dental crowns joined together to replace a missing tooth is called a bridge.

Why Do I Need A Crown?

There are a number of reasons why your dentist may recommend that you get a crown:

  • Following a root canal treatment, your tooth may become very brittle and discolored.  Your tooth will be more prone to breakage, so a crown may be recommended to help prevent the tooth breaking and also to cover up any darkness if it is in a front tooth.
  • Teeth with very large fillings often require a crown.  The crown helps hold the tooth together and to provide strength to the weakened tooth.

What Is A Crown Made Of?

The different materials that dental crowns can be made include metal, ceramic, or a combination of the two.  Crowns containing metal are stronger than those that don’t, but they don’t look as natural as full porcelain crowns.

  • A gold crown is an alloy of a number of different metals.  Although it is not made completely of gold, it will still be gold in color.  You can also get crowns made of a different alloy which are silver in color.
  • Porcelain fused to metal crowns are made of a metal alloy base with porcelain on top.  The metal substructure is used for strength and the porcelain on top makes the crown look like a real tooth.  Porcelain can be made in a wide variety of colors to match your natural teeth.  This is the most common type of crown that people get.
  • Zirconia crowns are often used on front teeth as they look more natural.  Zirconia, which is a very hard ceramic, is used as the substructure for the crown, and porcelain is used on top.  Zirconia crowns are often called full porcelain crowns.

Your dentist will recommend which type of crown would be best for you.  Different prices may be quoted for different types of crowns.

Procedure For Getting A Dental Crown

Having a dental crown made requires two visits to your dentist.  During the first appointment, your tooth will be drilled down to the correct size.  A number of impressions will then be taken to get accurate measurements of the tooth getting the crown, the surrounding teeth, and also the way your teeth bite together.  A temporary crown made of acrylic will be placed over your tooth while you are waiting for your permanent crown to be made.  A color will be chosen to match the crown to the neighboring teeth.  All of this information will be sent to a dental laboratory that will custom make the crown for you.

The next appointment is when you get your crown.  Firstly the temporary crown will be removed and the permanent crown will be placed over your tooth to check that it is fitting correctly.  The crown will then be stuck permanently to your tooth using a very strong dental cement, which is like glue.  The dentist will check that your teeth are biting together correctly and make any adjustments as required.  The crown may feel a little tight for a few days after having it placed.  This is quite normal and you will soon get used to it.

How Long Does A Dental Crown Last?

A dental crown usually lasts for 10-15 years, but they have been known to last for more than 25 years.  The longevity of a crown depends on the health of the tooth beneath the crown and the root of your tooth.  No matter how good the crown is, if the foundations it is sitting on are in poor condition, then the crown may not last.  It is like building a house on sand, you can’t expect it to last.  You need to take good care of your crown to help it last as long as possible.  Brushing and flossing just as you do with your natural teeth will keep your crown and it’s surrounding gums healthy.  Grinding or clenching your teeth can also lessen the lifespan of a crown.

Problems With Dental Crowns

Although crowns are secured with a very strong cement it is possible for them to fall off.  Don’t throw the crown away as you will need to take it to your dentist to have it re-cemented.  Sometimes the crown simply becomes unstuck but another reason is that the tooth below has decayed.  The decay will need to be removed and a filling will be placed.  The dentist will either re-cement your crown or if it doesn’t fit they will make you a new one.  If the root of the tooth has become split causing the crown to fall off, the tooth will need to be removed.   If your tooth develops an abscess and requires a root canal this can be performed without removing the crown.  Occasionally the crown can fall off during the root canal and require re-cementing.

When a crown is first fitted it goes all the way to the gum line so you can’t see where the crown joins the tooth.  After some time your gums can shrink back revealing this line which can look unsightly on front teeth.