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 crowns 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 a crown is placed.
Dental Crowns: “Why Place Them?”
Dental crowns are placed for a variety of reasons. The common reasons for placing crowns are:
- When a tooth has become badly rotted through decay, and the remaining tooth 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.
- Similarly, if a portion of the tooth has cracked off, a crown may be necessary.
- As well as decay and fracture, tooth-wear caused by acid erosion or grinding may weaken teeth to such an extent that crowns are needed.
- After a tooth has had a root canal treatment, e.g. due to the nerve dying, the tooth structure will be weaker as a result of the treatment and the original damage to the tooth. A crown will often be necessary to prevent catastrophic fracture of the tooth, 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 replace a missing tooth.
- 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?”
There is a variety of possible materials that dental crowns can be made from. The different materials suit differing circumstances, so each of the types of dental crowns have their own pros and cons. We have a look at these on this page… The types available.
“What does the procedure involve?”
See our article explaining the dental crown procedure here.
“How long does a dental crown last?”
Just as with an uncrowned tooth, the health of a crowned tooth will depend on how well you care for it. You can expect a good crown to last at least 5 years. Many crowns will last well beyond this. The life expectancy of a crown 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 a crown on a post on a weak front tooth. Factors that help improve how long teeth crowns will last include:
- A healthy diet.
- Good oral hygiene.
- Regular check-ups with the dentist.
- Protection for the crown if you are grinding, by using a mouth-guard.
- Appropriate use of crowns 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 Crown Procedure
“Are there any possible complications after the procedure?” Here are some points to consider after getting a crown.
- There may be some sensitivity on the tooth for a few days after a crown is placed. If this is prolonged, or the tooth feels sore to bite on you should contact your dentist.
- Once the crown 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 tooth, including proper cleaning between it and the teeth beside (‘interdental’ cleaning e.g. flossing).
- A tooth that has been crowned carries the same risk of gum disease as an uncrowned tooth, if not more so. Proper cleaning is needed to reduce the risks of gum disease.
- No matter how strong a crown 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 to crowns 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 crowns may chip. If minor chipping occurs, this can be left. Otherwise the chips can sometimes be repaired but if not the crown may need replaced.
- If gaps occur between the tooth and the crown, decay may set in and the crown may loosen. This is more likely with ill-fitting crowns. The dentist will check the crown at each check-up.
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 the crown. If there is an obvious reason for the crown falling out, such decay or tooth fracture, a new crown may need to be made. If the tooth structure underneath a crown fractures badly, the tooth may need to be extracted.
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 a crown last!