A crown is the ideal solution if one of your teeth has broken or become significantly weakened by an excess of decay or an especially large filling.

What are crowns?

Crowns (sometimes known as caps) are a type of dental restoration used to protect teeth that have become damaged, broken or cracked. Instead of replacing the damaged tooth, a crown is used to strengthen the existing tooth and preserve it's usefulness.

You might require a crown if the damage to it is so great that the remaining tooth is too weak to support a filling. Similarly crowns can be used to strengthen teeth after certain dental treatments, like root canals. They can also be used in place of composite bonding to build up the strength of a fractured tooth. Patients who grind their teeth or don't eat well can fall prey to acid erosion. In cases like these, a crown might be the only option available to fix the tooth.

Crowns can be made from a variety of materials and even combinations of different materials. However some materials are more aesthetically pleasing than others. For example crowns made from a combination of metal and porcelain may create dark gum lines over time that are highly visible. For a natural look it is recommended that you opt for a ceramic or porcelain crown. The cost of crowns vary according to what material is used and price can often reflect the quality of the material. The life of a crown can often depend on your oral hygiene. Just like natural teeth, your dental crowns need looking after and if you maintain a good level of oral hygiene then a crown made from quality material can last upwards of 10 years. Some of the most frequently used types of crown include:

The most common types of crowns:

  • Gold Crowns
    Although not as aesthetically discreet as other types of crowns , these are still the best option for many patients. If you grind or clench your teeth then the strength and durability of a gold crown is right for you. Gold crowns are commonly recommended to patients with a strong bite or for crowns located at the back of the mouth. In general, they last longer and tend to prevent wearing, as they aren't as abrasive to the opposing teeth as other materials.
  • Ceramic Crowns
    By far the most aesthetically discreet option, ceramic crowns are one of the most popular. As no metal is used, ceramic crowns allow light to be transmitted through them creating a more life-like look. Also it can be used for the treatment of small areas. Despite many innovations in the durability and strength of ceramic crowns, they are usually not used in areas of the mouth that undergo heavy usage.
  • Porcelain fused to Metal
    The porcelain/metal combinations provides both an aesthetically discreet and highly durable option. It's important to note that the appearance of the crown relies heavily on the skill of the laboratory that creates it. This type of crown has a tendency to show underlying metal at the gum line over time. However, rapid innovations in dental technology means there are many types of metal crowns that can be used to avoid the need for repalcement later in life.

The Procedure

Before having a crown fitted your dentist will give you a thorough examination to discuss your treatment options. The tooth will then be prepared for the crown by a thorough cleaning to remove any decay. Your dentist might need to reshape the tooth using a special dental drill known as a burr. This is done so that the crown can fit correctly over your tooth. After the preparation is complete, you will have a mould taken of your teeth in dental putty that is then sent off to a laboratory. At the laboratory, the impression of your tooth will be used as a basis to create your crown. This typically takes a couple of weeks and it is common to be fitted with a temporary crown to protect the tooth while you await for your custom made crown.

Once the crown is prepared your dentist will detach the temporary crown and prepare your tooth with a special kind of acid that improves the bonding process. After testing that the crown fits properly, your dentist will then use dental cement to bond the crown into place. It's important to maintain a high level of oral hygiene, as crowns require the same care as natural teeth. It's usually advised that you avoid grinding your teeth and avoid chewing hard foods or ice as this may damage or fracture the crown.

Are crowns right for you?

If you're experiencing a problem with your tooth then crowns might not always be the best option. There are many less invasive treatments that can help strengthen a damaged or decayed tooth. For example, dental bonding or veneers can be used to adequately protect the tooth without the lengthy crowning procedure. However in some cases crowns will be the only option due to the fact that other types of restoration are only effective if the tooth is strong enough to support them.

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