Dental Crowns –All you need to know
If your teeth have been damaged or discolored, a dental crown can restore your smile to its former glory. You already have a natural crown in place as the visible part of your teeth – it is called the clinical crown. When this part gets damaged, discolored or your teeth need strengthening, an artificial dental crown is placed over the natural crown.
What is a dental crown and why do I need one?
A dental crown, also known as ‘cap’ is an artificial restoration that is placed over a prepared tooth to preserve the functionality of damaged teeth. The tooth is ‘prepared’ for crown fitting first so that the crown fits perfectly. The crown fully encompasses the visible part of the tooth above the gum line. There are several reasons why your dentist may advise you to get a dental crown. Some of the reasons for getting a dental crown are:
- To protect a damaged tooth from further damage.
- To prevent further decay of a tooth.
- To cover a dental implant
- To hold a dental bridge in place.
- To cover a discolored filling
- To help strengthen a tooth with a large filling when there isn’t enough tooth remaining to hold the filling
There are several other reasons why your dentist may recommend you get a dental crown. Your dentist knows best about what to do to keep your teeth healthy and if he recommends a crown, it is probably to correct a severe dental condition.
Different materials for a dental crown:
There are several materials that are used to create a dental crown.
- Porcelain-fused-to-metal: Porcelain fused with metal is the most common material used for building a dental crown. A precious metal base is made and then porcelain is applied in layers over it. This material provides a durable and strong crown which also maintains the aesthetic value. One of the key reasons why this material is so popular is that when the underlying tooth structure is prepared for this crown, it provides adequate space for the adequate thickness of the material to be selected. This material can be made to match the color and tone of the surrounding teeth and hence it is also preferred by people who want to maintain their natural look.
- Porcelain: Another type of material that is popular among people determined to keep their natural look is the porcelain crown. This is made purely out of ceramic or porcelain and is not as strong as the porcelain fused to metal crown, but it can be made to match the contour and color of the surrounding teeth. This makes it an attractive choice when the crown needs to be fitted to the front teeth. Apart from the aesthetic value, this type of crown can be created with a reduced thickness of the material and hence preferred in a place where there is limited space.
- Stainless steel: Steel is used to make a temporary crown. It is used to protect the tooth while a permanent crown is being made from another material. It is usually used for babies or children where a steel crown is placed over a primary tooth that’s been prepared to fit it. Stainless steel crowns are used for children’s teeth because they don’t require multiple dental visits to put in place, so they are more cost-effective.
- Gold alloy: Gold alloy is not a popular choice because of the high price and lower aesthetic value, but these crowns provide durability that is surpassed by none. That is why they are fitted into people with a strong bite or people with grinding or clenching habits. They are used for crowns placed on the back teeth because of their durability and because the back teeth are less visible. Gold crowns tend to offer greater longevity and require less preparation than porcelain and porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns as they do not wear down easily from the continuous chewing and grinding of food.
How is a crown placed on a tooth?
The first step is to numb the teeth for the procedure. If the crown is being placed after a root canal treatment or over a fractured tooth, then a filling is placed to restore part of the tooth so that the crown can hold onto something. Then the tooth is shaved to a bare minimum to make room for the crown.
At this point, your dentist will take an impression of the prepared tooth with a digital scanner. Usually, your bite prints and also the tooth’s impression is recorded to produce a crown that is similar to the surrounding teeth. A temporary crown is provided to protect the teeth while the permanent crown is being prepared. This temporary crown is cemented with temporary cement so that it can come off easily once the permanent crown is ready. After a few weeks, the patient is asked to return for a second sitting where the permanent crown is placed over the damaged tooth.