What Are Dental Crowns?

Dental crowns are a means of protection for a tooth that is weakened by decay. Most often, dental crowns are applied to molars that have had extensive work done. This is because left the way it is, dental fillings can weaken a tooth to the point where it will crack and break. Dental crowns cap the tooth and make them stronger so that they are able to be used for chewing. Dental crowns can also be applied to teeth that are severely ground down due to teeth grinding, a common malady that impacts many people.

As with other dental appliances, there are a variety of materials that can be used for the crown, including porcelain, metal, ceramic, resin, and stainless steel. Each material comes with its own pros and cons, which need to be discussed with your dentist prior to creating the crown.

What is the process for getting a crown?

One of the first things your dentist is going to do if a crown is the best course of treatment is to check on the overall health of the tooth. If you have had extensive decay or work done on the tooth, a root canal may be necessary. Your dentist may suggest doing the root canal himself or sending you to an endodontist, a specialist that works primarily with root canals. If the tooth is a back molar, he will most likely send you to an endodontist due to the many canals in those teeth.

Once any root canal work is done, if it is needed, you will then return to your dentist’s office to create the crown. This normally takes two appointments to complete. The first appointment involves shaping the tooth to prepare it for the crown. The tooth usually needs to be ground down until it is a specific thickness and shape.

When the tooth is prepared, the dentist will then take impressions of the tooth. The impression is important because it is sent to the lab in order for the crown to be made. You want the crown to fit in your mouth perfectly, so a good impression is critical to success. While your crown is being made in the laboratory, which normally takes two weeks, you dentist will likely place a temporary crown. This temporary crown will help protect your tooth until the permanent crown is placed. Treat the temporary with caution and do not bite down on hard things.

At the second appointment, the dentist will remove your temporary crown. He/She will then place the permanent crown on your tooth to check the fit, bite, and appearance of the tooth. If the crown is in a location where it is visible when you smile, the dentist will likely have you check the appearance for yourself. This is not the time to be shy! Once the permanent crown is affixed to your teeth changes cannot be made, so be sure the color and appearance is what you want, even if it means having to replace the temporary crown until your new one can be fixed. If everything is good, the dentist will cement the crown to your tooth.

Lastly, your dentist will give you instructions on how to care for your crown and any restrictions for the next couple of days while it cures. Your crown should last you 5-15 years depending on wear.

Dental crowns can be costly, especially when paired with root canal work beforehand, but, overall, the main goal is to retain as much original tooth as possible for as long as possible. Even having to be replaced every 5-15 years, dental crowns are still the preferred treatment to save the tooth instead of pulling it or replacing it with an implant.