What is a dental crown?

Dental crowns are custom-fitted tooth prosthetics designed to cover or "cap" a damaged or decayed tooth, restoring its size, shape, strength, and appearance. These crowns not only repair and protect a tooth but also can improve the overall aesthetics of one’s smile, making them a popular choice for both functional and cosmetic enhancements

The process of selecting and fitting a dental crown is highly personalized, taking into account factors such as the tooth's location, the patient's bite and chewing patterns, and aesthetic preferences. Dental crowns are made from various materials, each offering unique benefits in terms of durability, appearance, and cost, thus catering to a wide range of dental needs and patient preferences. 

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What are the types of dental crowns?

Understanding the types of dental crowns available is crucial for making an informed decision about your dental care. Each type offers different advantages, and the best choice for you will depend on various factors including your specific dental needs, aesthetic goals, and budget.

  • Ceramic dental crowns

Ceramic dental crowns are renowned for their natural appearance, making them an ideal choice for front teeth restorations. Made from porcelain-based materials, these crowns provide a colour and texture that closely resembles that of natural teeth, ensuring a seamless blend with your smile. Ceramic crowns are a popular choice for those prioritizing aesthetics, although they may not be as strong as some other types, making them more suitable for areas with less intense chewing pressure.

  • Porcelain fused to metal dental crowns

Porcelain fused to metal (PFM) crowns offer a blend of durability and aesthetic appeal. They consist of a metal core covered with a porcelain layer, which provides a good match to the natural colour of your teeth. While the metal core adds strength, making them suitable for both front and back teeth, the porcelain overlay ensures a more natural look. However, in some cases, the metal underlying the crown's porcelain can show through as a dark line, especially at the gum line.

  • Metal dental crowns

Metal dental crowns made from gold, platinum, or base-metal alloys, are among the most durable types, capable of withstanding biting and chewing forces well, making them an excellent choice for molars. Their metallic colour is the main drawback, making them more noticeable and less aesthetically pleasing, which is why they're commonly used for back teeth where they are less visible.

  • Composite resin dental crowns

Composite resin crowns are a cost-effective alternative that can be matched to the natural colour of your teeth, providing a decent aesthetic result. They are less durable than metal or porcelain crowns and are more prone to wear and staining over time. However, their ease of repair and lower cost make them an attractive option for temporary or short-term use.

How to choose the right dental crown for you?

Choosing the right dental crown involves considering several factors, including the crown's material, the affected tooth's location, your aesthetic goals, and your budget. Your dentist will play a crucial role in this decision, offering professional advice based on your dental needs and preferences.

For front teeth, where aesthetics is a priority, ceramic or porcelain crowns might be the preferred choice due to their natural appearance. For molars, durability is key, making metal crowns a viable option. 

Budget constraints may steer some towards composite resin crowns, while others may opt for the balanced attributes of PFM crowns. It's essential to discuss these options with your dentist, considering the longevity, appearance, and cost of each type to find the best fit for your needs.

The dental crown procedure in 5 steps

The dental crown procedure is a multi-step process that restores the form and function of a damaged tooth. This treatment not only enhances the tooth's appearance but also provides strength and protection, ensuring long-term dental health.

  • Step 1: Initial consultation

The journey towards a dental crown begins with an initial consultation, where your dentist evaluates your dental health and discusses the best options for your specific needs. This stage often involves taking X-rays to assess the tooth's roots and surrounding bone, determining the viability of a crown. The dentist will also consider factors such as tooth location, gum health, and personal preferences in aesthetics and budget.

  • Step 2: Preparation

The affected tooth is reshaped to make room for the crown. This involves removing a portion of the tooth's outer layer to ensure a proper fit. If the tooth is severely damaged, it may need to be built up with a filling material to support the crown.

  • Step 3: Impression production

Once the tooth is prepared, an impression is made using a dental putty or digital scanning device. This impression is crucial for crafting a crown that fits perfectly over your tooth and aligns with the surrounding teeth.

  • Step 4: Temporary crown placement

A temporary crown is often placed to protect the prepared tooth while the permanent crown is being made. This temporary cover helps maintain the tooth's function and appearance and protects it from sensitivity and damage.

  • Step 5: Permanent crown placement

When your custom-made crown is ready, the temporary crown is removed, and the permanent crown is adjusted as needed for a perfect fit and bite. The crown is then cemented in place, fully encasing the tooth.

What are the advantages of dental crowns?

Dental crowns offer several significant advantages, from restoring damaged teeth to enhancing your smile's aesthetics. They are a versatile and durable solution for a wide range of dental issues.

  • Restoring tooth functionality

Dental crowns restore functionality to damaged, decayed, or broken teeth, allowing for normal eating and speaking. By covering and protecting the tooth, crowns help distribute bite forces evenly, preventing further damage and pain. This restoration of function is essential for maintaining overall dental health and comfort.

  • Aesthetic enhancements

Beyond functional benefits, dental crowns offer significant aesthetic improvements. They can be crafted to match the colour, shape, and size of your natural teeth, seamlessly blending into your smile. Whether it's correcting discolouration, misshapen teeth, or gaps, crowns provide a cosmetic solution that enhances the appearance of your teeth, boosting confidence and self-esteem.

When would you need a dental crown?

Dental crowns serve as a versatile solution in dentistry, addressing both restorative and cosmetic needs. They come into play when a tooth is significantly damaged or compromised beyond what simpler treatments like fillings can address. 

For instance, a tooth weakened by decay, cracks, or extensive dental procedures may require a crown to encapsulate and protect it from further damage. This is especially true for teeth that have undergone root canal therapy, where the remaining tooth structure becomes fragile and needs reinforcement.

On the cosmetic front, crowns offer an aesthetic solution for dental imperfections. They can be used to improve the appearance of discoloured, poorly shaped, or slightly misaligned teeth, providing a more uniform and appealing smile. 

Crowns are also the final step in dental implant procedures, acting as the prosthetic tooth that restores full functionality and aesthetics. Whether it's preserving the integrity of a damaged tooth, covering a dental implant, or enhancing the cosmetic appearance of your teeth, dental crowns can be an essential component of comprehensive dental care, ensuring the longevity and health of your smile.

Frequently asked questions

How long does the dental crown procedure take?

The dental crown procedure typically requires two visits to the dentist. The first visit involves preparing the tooth, taking impressions, and placing a temporary crown, which can take about 1 to 2 hours. 

The second visit, usually a few weeks later, involves fitting and cementing the permanent crown, which may take about 30 minutes to an hour. The overall process, from start to finish, can span over two to three weeks, depending on the dental laboratory's schedule and the need for any adjustments.

Is getting a dental crown painful?

Getting a dental crown is generally not painful due to the use of local anaesthesia during the tooth preparation phase. You may experience some sensitivity or mild discomfort after the anaesthesia wears off or when the temporary crown is in place, but this is typically manageable with over-the-counter pain relievers. Your dentist will take every precaution to ensure the procedure is as comfortable as possible.

Can a dental crown fall off?

While it's uncommon, a dental crown can fall off due to various reasons such as improper fit, inadequate dental cement, or wear and tear over time. Eating sticky or hard foods can also contribute to a crown becoming loose or dislodged. If your crown falls off, it's important to contact your dentist immediately to have it re-cemented or replaced if necessary.

Will a dental crown look natural?

Yes, a dental crown can be designed to look very natural. Crowns are custom-made to match the colour, shape, and size of your surrounding teeth, ensuring they blend seamlessly with your smile. Advances in dental materials and technology have made it possible to achieve highly aesthetic results, especially with ceramic and porcelain crowns.

Can a dental crown be replaced?

Yes, a dental crown can be replaced if it becomes damaged, worn, or aesthetically displeasing over time. The replacement process involves removing the old crown, preparing the underlying tooth structure, and fitting a new crown. With proper care, dental crowns can last many years, but like natural teeth, they may eventually need to be replaced due to normal wear or changes in oral health.

Are there alternatives to dental crowns?

Yes, there are alternatives to dental crowns, depending on the situation. For minor tooth damage or decay, options like dental fillings or on-lays may be sufficient. In cases where aesthetics is a primary concern, veneers may be an alternative for front teeth. 

However, for extensive damage or after root canal treatment, crowns are often the most effective solution for restoring tooth structure and function. Your dentist can advise you on the best option based on your specific dental needs.