Crowns - also known as caps - are dental restorations used to protect the functionality of natural teeth that have become badly damaged, broken or cracked. A crown is also an ideal solution if the tooth structure has become significantly weakened by an especially large filling or extensive decay.
What are dental crowns?
Instead of replacing the damaged tooth with an implant, a crown is used to strengthen an existing tooth and preserve its usefulness. Crowns are bonded over your damaged tooth, recreating the outer surface to protect the softer inner dentin.
When is a crown the best option?
- The tooth damage is so great that the remaining tooth structure is too weak to support a filling.
- To strengthen teeth after certain dental treatments, such as root canals.
- To build up the strength of a fractured tooth.
- Patients who grind their teeth, or have an acidic diet or acid reflux can fall prey to tooth wear such as abrasion, attrition and erosion. In cases like these, a crown might be the only option available to fix the tooth.
Which type of crown to choose?
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:
- Ceramic Crowns.
By far the most aesthetically discreet option, ceramic crowns are one of the most popular choices. As no metal is used, ceramic crowns allow light to be transmitted through them, creating a more natural, life-like look. Also, ceramic crowns can be used for the treatment of small areas. Despite many innovations in the durability and strength of ceramic crowns, they are generally better for teeth in the front of the mouth. They aren't usually used in areas that undergo heavy usage.
- Porcelain fused to metal.
The porcelain-metal combination crown 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 tends to show underlying metal at the gum line over time. However, rapid innovations in dental technology mean many types of metal crowns can be used to avoid the need for replacement later in life.
- 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 are 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.
The dental crown procedure
Before having a crown fitted, your dentist will give you a thorough examination to discuss your treatment options. The tooth is then prepared for the crown by a thorough cleaning and removing any decay. Your dentist needs to reshape and remove part of the tooth to create space to accommodate the thickness of the new crown so it will fit correctly. We then take an impression of your teeth, either with a digital scan or in specialised dental material. The crown can then be manufactured in one of two ways:
- Using a digital scan and CAD-CAM technology, your dentist can create your crown chairside, at the same visit.
- We send the cast or digital models off to our master ceramics laboratory. Our excellent ceramists use this tooth impression and custom make your crown. This process usually takes a week or two, and we'll fit a temporary crown to protect the tooth while you wait for your bespoke crown.
Once the crown is prepared, your dentist detaches the temporary crown and prepares your tooth for bonding. Your dentist tests that the crown fits properly and then bonds the crown in place.
Caring for your crown
After placing your crown, it's important to maintain a high level of oral hygiene, as crowns require the same care as natural teeth. If you suffer from bruxism, your dentist will advise ways for you to avoid grinding your teeth as this may damage or fracture the crown. With good home dental care and regular professional monitoring, a crown should last between 10 and 15 years before having to be replaced.
Are crowns right for you?
If you're experiencing a problem with your tooth, crowns might not always be the best option. Many less invasive treatments can help strengthen a damaged or decayed tooth. For example, dental bonding or veneers can be used to protect the tooth adequately without the lengthy and more invasive crowning procedure. In some cases, crowns will be the only option since other types of restoration are only effective if the tooth is still strong enough to support them.