A Quick Look At Dental Crowns

A crown is a tooth-shaped covering (or ‘cap’) that is placed over teeth.

Here are some summary points which we will go into in more detail in this guide:

  • Crowns are placed in order to improve the strength and/or appearance of the teeth.
  • In order to make room for a crown, the underlying tooth must first be filed down to the correct size.  This can potentially damage a tooth or the nerve of the tooth.  So these are not normally placed unless they are necessary for one of the reasons outlined below.
  • There are different types of dental crowns, each type being suitable in differing circumstances.
  • You must continue to take good care of your teeth after one is placed.

 

Image of dental crown

A crown is a prosthetic cap that is secured over a tooth or implant

“Why and When Are These Used?”

Dental crowns are placed for a variety of reasons, the common ones being:

  • When a tooth has become badly rotted through decay, and the remaining structure is too weak to hold a normal filling or inlay.  Alternatively even if a filling can be placed; your dentist may advise a crown as a more secure treatment in the long term.
  • As well as decay and fracture, tooth-wear caused by acid erosion or grinding may weaken teeth to such an extent that full coverage protection is needed.
  • After a tooth has had a root canal treatment, e.g. due to the nerve dying, the remaining structure will be weaker as a result of the treatment and the original damage to the tooth.  A cap will often be necessary to prevent a catastrophic fracture, particularly in molar (back) teeth.
  • A crown may be placed to help secure a denture in place, thus making the denture more tightly.
  • As part of a bridge to restore a gap in ones smile.
  • For cosmetic improvement of the smile. For example, when teeth are discolored or badly mis-shaped.  Crowns should only be placed in such circumstances when other, less invasive, treatments are not suitable.  Such treatments may include whitening, dental bonding and veneers.  Note that veneers and dental bonding treatments will not make the underlying teeth stronger if they are weak. So if strengthening is needed crowns are the treatment of choice.

 

“What are the different types of crowns available?”

"Image of a zirconia crown on a cast"

A metal-free, machine-made Zirconia type of crown

There is a variety of possible materials that this restorations can be made from. The different materials suit differing circumstances, so each of the types have their own pros and consWe have a look at these on this page

 

“What does the procedure involve?”

See our article explaining the dental crown procedure here.

 

“How long does a crown last?”

Just as with an uncrowned tooth, the health of a crowned unit will depend on how well you care for it. You can expect a good crown to last at least 5 years.

Many will last well beyond this.  The life expectancy will also depend on the condition and position of the tooth in the first place. For example, a gold crown on a strong back tooth would be expected to last longer than one would on a post on a weakened front tooth.

Factors that help improve how long crowns will last include:

  • healthy diet.
  • Good oral hygiene.
  • Regular check-ups with the dentist.
  • Protection from your bite if you are grinding, by using a mouth-guard.
  • Appropriate use of these restorations in the first place.

 

“How much do they cost?”

See our guide here on the factors that affect the dental crown cost.

 

Recovery and Care After The Procedure

“Are there any possible complications after the procedure?” Here are some points to consider after getting a cap placed.

  • There may be some sensitivity for a few days after a crown is placed. If this is prolonged, or the area feels sore to bite on, you should contact your dentist.
  • Once the cap has been fitted into place, your dentist will instruct you on how to care for it.  In general, a crowned tooth needs at least the same care as an uncrowned one, including proper cleaning between it and the teeth alongside it (‘interdental’ cleaning e.g. flossing).
  • A tooth that has been crowned carries the same risk of gum disease as an any other, if not more so.  Proper cleaning is needed to reduce the risks of gum disease.
  • No matter how strong a cap is, it will not be as strong as a healthy, sound tooth.  Thus one will need to avoid particularly hard foods, and avoid destructive habits such as biting ones fingernails or opening bottles with the teeth!
  • A major risk factor for crowns failing is clenching or grinding.  If this is being done at night, your dentist may make a mouth guard to be worn at night-time.
  • Porcelain may chip off.  If minor chipping occurs, this can be left as is.  Otherwise the chips can sometimes be repaired but if not, the whole unit may need replaced.
  • If gaps occur between under it, decay may set in and the crown may loosen.  This is more likely with ill-fitting work.  The dentist will review the work at each check-up to ensure no decay is setting in.

Crowns on teeth may eventually fall out.  In such an event, bring the crown to the dentist.  If everything appears healthy the dentist may be able to re-cement it.  If there is an obvious reason for it falling out, such as decay or tooth fracture, a new restoration may need to be made.  If the enamel and dentin structure underneath a cap fractures badly, the tooth may need to be extracted.

Read more on what to do if a crown falls out here.

 

Summary Notes

A dental crown is placed for a variety of reasons and is an excellent treatment for repairing badly broken down teeth.

Getting this treatment can carry some risks to the tooth so they are only placed when necessary. Teeth that have been crowned need to be cleaned and looked after as they are not immune to decay and gum disease. So you must keep up your oral hygiene levels to help these dental restorations last!

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