When we recommend a dental crown, many patients have questions. If you’ve never needed any restorations beyond a simple filling, you are probably curious about this treatment. How do crowns work? Why are they needed? To help you understand your recommended treatment, we’ve put together a few frequently asked questions about this restorative dentistry technique.
How Are Crowns Different from Fillings?
Fillings are used to restore a portion of tooth enamel that has been damaged by decay. They fill up the hole (cavity) that has been made by bacterial acids, with a hard enamel substitute called dental composite. Dental crowns are different because they are tooth shaped caps that fully encircle and protect a tooth. A crown is made to look like a full natural tooth and should fit perfectly into your smile. Unlike a filling, crowns are made in a dental laboratory and sent back to the dentist to be bonded to your tooth. This means that it may take several weeks to get your crown, unlike a filling, which is completed in one visit.
Why Might I Need a Dental Crown?
If you’ve been told you need a crown, this means your tooth has sustained a great deal of structural damage or is likely to fail in the future. Teeth may need crowns if (1) they have sustained a deep crack, (2) a portion of the tooth has broken off, or (3) much of the tooth’s structure has been lost to decay. Some patients choose to have crowns made for cosmetic reasons. For example, if a tooth is badly stained and does not respond to whitening treatments, a crown can provide a beautiful substitute in your smile.
What Are Dental Crowns Made Of? Do They Look Natural?
Crowns are made to look like your affected tooth and should look natural in your smile. Crowns can be made of either metal, porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM), dental ceramic, or zirconia. If you have lost a tooth that shows when you smile, you may wish to choose a zirconia or ceramic crown, as they tend to look more like natural teeth. PFM crowns are more discreet than all-metal crowns, but they may reveal a thin line of metal at the gum line as time passes.
How Long Do Crowns Last?
Dental crowns are made to mimic the function, shape, and hardness of tooth enamel. With proper bonding they can last for many years. The average life span for dental crowns is about 10-15 years. Zirconia and metal crowns tend to last a bit longer than ceramic. However, we’ve seen crowns last a lifetime, in some cases. The good news is that careful use can extend the life of your crown. Do not use your crown to bite hard, non-food items, and it will last longer!
It’s important for you to know that after you have had a crown treatment, you will not be able to go back to not having a crown. Since much of the tooth enamel must be removed to make room for the crown, the tooth will no longer be protected from bacterial damage and temperature sensitivity. If your crown ever becomes dislodged, you should see a dentist as soon as possible to have it rebonded.
What Will Happen During My Appointment?
During your appointment, we will start with an anesthetic injection to make sure you feel no sensitivity in the tooth. After you are numb, we will treat the tooth by removing a portion of the enamel. We end up with a smaller tooth that leaves room for the crown to fit snugly over and around it.
Next, we will take a dental impression of your bite. This will serve as a guide for the dental technicians who design and fabricate your crown in an off-site laboratory. Before you leave, we will fit you with a temporary crown to wear while your permanent crown is being made. This temporary crown will protect the tooth and help you chew your food properly. It is not meant to be worn forever, however, and is not as strong as your final dental crown will be. Take care not to eat very sticky or chewy foods when wearing the temporary, as they may dislodge it. When your crown is ready, we will call you in for a second appointment to have it permanently bonded to your tooth.SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT