What are dental crowns?
A dental crown is a tooth shaped, and often tooth colored, restoration used to entirely cover or “cap” a damaged tooth. Typically a crown is made of porcelain or metal, like a gold alloy. A crown is a restoration that may be used for a number of dental conditions. Most commonly, a crown is used to restore a tooth that has been cracked, broken, had a root canal, replaced with an implant or decayed to a point that a dental filling will not provide a successful restoration. Each crown is custom made to fit over your entire tooth, going right down to the gum line. Your tooth structure will be reduced in size, which will allow the crown to fit properly over your tooth. An impression will be taken and a crown will be custom created in a dental lab to fit exactly over your prepped tooth. A dental crown restores a tooth to its normal size, shape, and function.
When are dental crowns necessary?
One of the most common uses for a dental crown is to restore a tooth that is significantly damaged or decayed. If a filling is too large, it is a better long term solution to put a crown on the damaged tooth as a restoration. A tooth with a filling that is too large is likely to break at some point, during normal use. A crown will prevent this from happening and is used to protect the tooth structure from further damage. A crown can be used for many aesthetic and restorative purposes, including:
- To cover and protect a tooth that has been cracked or broken.
- To cover and support a large filling.
- To anchor a dental bridge.
- To protect a tooth following root canal treatment.
- As part of an implant after a tooth is lost or extracted.
- To improve the look of a misshapen or small tooth.
- To enhance the beauty of your smile.
What are dental crowns made of?
There are four main types of dental crowns, each being made in a different way.
1. The first type are metal crowns. These are made from metal alloys like gold, palladium, nickel, or chromium. Metal crowns are the strongest and last the longest. They are strong enough to hold up to teeth grinding and biting. However, they cannot be matched to the color of your other teeth, so they are most often used in the back of the mouth on molars where they are less visible.
2. All-porcelain or all-ceramic crowns can be color matched to your teeth, but they do tend to wear down the opposing teeth more than a metal crown does. Also the porcelain can chip, so there are certain foods and habits that must be avoided to prolong the life of an all porcelain crown. These types of crowns are recommended when there is a known metal allergy.
- Porcelain fused to metal crowns are stronger because of the metal base. However the porcelain can still chip, so care must be taken. These crowns can be color matched to your existing teeth, are natural looking and are often used on the front teeth and with bridges.
- Resin crowns are less expensive, but are also less durable. Thus they are not usually used as a permanent crown. Resin is most often used for a temporary crown, while you are waiting for your permanent crown to be made and fitted.
Can dental crowns be repaired?
It may be possible to repair a damaged dental crown, depending on how much of it is damaged and how severe the damage is. Generally it is better to replace the crown so the integrity of the crown is not compromised. However, if the chip isn’t large, your dentist may repair it with a composite filling material to match the crown. In the case of a small chip or rough area, sometimes all that is needed is a little reshaping and smoothing of the surface of the crown.
Are dental crowns safe?
Yes, dental crowns are generally very safe. The only real problem that may be an issue is an allergy to the material used, typically a metal allergy. If you have a known sensitivity or allergy to any metal, inform the dentist of this and together you can decide what will be best for you.
Are dental crowns painful?
During the procedure, you will be numbed with an anesthetic so that you do not feel any pain while your tooth is being prepared for the crown. As with all dental work, some sensitivity is to be expected after the procedure. Typically this should leave within a week or so. If there is still sensitivity or soreness that lingers, contact the dentist with any questions. Sometimes the bite is not correct and the crown is high in a spot, this will cause soreness and can easily be fixed by the dentist adjusting the bite.
Can dental crowns be whitened?
Unfortunately whitening treatments do not affect the color of a crown. They will remain the color that they were when the dentist placed them. If over time your natural teeth begin to yellow or stain, your crown could begin to look whiter than your natural teeth. The good news is that your crown material will stay the same color and not yellow or stain like natural enamel can.
If you want to whiten your teeth and have one or more crowns, you need to do so under the direction of your dentist. Whitening agents can damage the surface of the crown material.
Are dental crowns permanent?
Dental crowns are generally expected to last 5 to 15 years, and often, if they are well cared for, can last much longer. Because crowns are expected to last at least 5 years, generally, most insurance companies will cover the cost of replacing a crown after that time period.
It is wise to understand that crowns are subject to cavities forming in the tooth underneath it. So care should be taken with brushing and flossing to prevent decay from forming under a crown. It is also possible to chip or crack a crown, particularly a porcelain or ceramic crown. A mouth guard can help protect the porcelain from cracking or chipping if you grind or clench your teeth, as well as avoiding certain hard foods and bad habits like chewing or biting on hard items, like a pen.
Are dental crowns and caps the same thing?
Yes, a dental crown and a dental cap are referring to the same thing. Dental crown is a more technical term and a cap is more of an informal way to refer to it. But, they are just two different words referring to the same procedure.
Can dental crowns decay?
The dental crown itself will not decay, however the tooth under it can. A tooth is protected from decay by the crown covering it, except along the gum line. This is where the natural tooth is still exposed to cavity causing foods and bacteria. Plaque usually accumulates around the base of our teeth and this is the vulnerable area of a tooth with a crown. Brushing and flossing around a crown is very important to prevent decay from forming along the gum line and moving up into the tooth covered by the crown. Regular dental check ups are also important in the early detection of decay. Decay under a crown is one of the main reasons a dental crown will fail and need to be replaced. If you get decay under a crown, the crown must be taken off of the tooth, the decay will then be removed and replaced with a filling. Then a new crown with need to be made and placed because it is impossible to get the newly filled tooth to fit exactly under the old crown.
Will dental insurance cover crowns?
Dental insurance coverage may vary according to the type of plan and the level of benefits you have elected. Dental insurance typically covers procedures that include annual exams, cleanings, x-rays, and fillings. A dental crown is usually covered because it is often necessary to maintain or restore good dental health. If a crown is requested for cosmetic reasons, it may not be covered. Contact our office staff with any questions you may have. We will be happy to help you understand what procedures are covered and what is not covered under your insurance plan.