What is a dental crown, and why do I need one?

January 31, 2022

Dental crowns are tooth-shaped “caps” placed over your tooth. Think of it as a snug hat for your tooth. The crown restores the tooth’s shape, size, strength, and appearance. The dental crown is cemented into place on your tooth, and it covers the visible portion of the tooth.

Why would I need a dental crown?
You may need a dental crown for several reasons, including:
Protecting a weak tooth (possibly from decay) from breaking or to keep the weak tooth together if parts of it are cracked.
Restoring a broken tooth or a severely worn down tooth.
Covering and supporting a tooth with a large filling and not much tooth remaining.
Holding a dental bridge in place.
Covering misshapen or severely discolored teeth, cosmetic purposes.
Covering a dental implant.
Covering a tooth that’s been treated with a root canal.

What are dental crowns made of?
Permanent crowns can are made out of many different materials. These materials can include:
Gold-This is still considered the ‘gold standard’ in crowns and considered the best material for many reasons. There is a conservative amount of tooth reduction involved. The more ‘natural’ tooth under a crown, the better the tooth’s long-term prognosis. Additionally, it wears gently with natural dentition and seals margins like no other dental material. The only drawback is cosmetic. Typically, these crowns are best for posterior ‘back’ molar teeth. These crowns are waxed and cast in a dental lab, similar to how a jeweler would.
Zirconium-This is the most common material used currently for tooth-colored crowns. It mimics many of the properties of gold, without the cosmetic concern. These crowns are typically milled.
It is important to note there are several other materials used in dentistry for crowns; however, these are the two most common.

How is my tooth prepared for a dental crown?
You will typically have two visits to the dentist to prepare for a dental crown. In some cases, you may have a dental crown made in your dentist’s office.
The first visit
During the first visit, the tooth that’s going to receive the crown typically consists of removing any old filling material on the tooth and decay, and building up at fractured areas. This is typically done with a resin material called Composite.
After preparing the tooth, a paste or putty is used to make an impression of the tooth that’s going to receive the crown. Impressions of the teeth above and below the tooth that’s getting the dental crown will also be made. This is done to make sure that the crown will not affect your bite.
The impressions are sent to a dental laboratory. The laboratory makes the crowns and usually returns them to the dentist’s office in two to three weeks. During this first office visit, your will have a temporary crown to cover and protect the prepared tooth while you’re waiting on the permanent crown.
The second visit
At the second visit, the permanent crown is placed on your tooth. First, the temporary crown is removed (sometimes with local anesthetic, but typically without for the benefit of perception for the occlusion/bite), and the fit and color of the permanent crown is checked. If everything looks good, the new crown is permanently cemented in place. It is not unusual for the tooth to need some adjustment before cementation.
An X-ray is taken to confirm fit.

What problems can develop with a dental crown?
There are several issues that you might experience over time with your crown, including:
Discomfort or sensitivity: A newly crowned tooth may be sensitive immediately after the procedure as the anesthesia begins to wear off. If the crowned tooth still has a nerve in it, you may experience some heat and cold sensitivity. Your dentist might recommend that you brush your teeth with toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth. Pain or sensitivity that happens when you bite down usually means that the crown is too high on the tooth. If this is the case, call your dentist. This problem is easily fixed.
Crown falls off: A dental crown can actually fall off. This can occur if there is a lack of cement, the cement washes out, something sticky you have eaten pulls the crown off, or you have developed a cavity, and it has interrupted the cement layer, or if the tooth is short with little retention. If this happens to you, reach out immediately. It may be able to be re-cemented. If the crown can’t be put back in place, a new crown will need to be made.

How long do dental crowns last?
On average, dental crowns last between five and 15 years. The life space of a crown depends on the amount of “wear and tear” the crown is exposed to how well you follow oral hygiene practices and personal mouth-related habits. These mouth-related habits can include things like:
Grinding or clenching your teeth.
Chewing ice.
Biting your fingernails.
Using your teeth to open packaging.

At Chatham Dental Arts we believe in educating our patients about the dental treatment we provide. We treat our patients like family and our proud to serve our local community. If you are searching for a dentist, look no further. Call our office today to schedule your dental appointment (919) 542-4911.