Dental crowns are one of the most common restorative treatments. A patient might need a crown for many reasons, and they are the top choice to restore a tooth’s look or function.
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What is a dental crown?
A dental crown is a cap covering a tooth’s visible part (also known as a “tooth crown”). It’s a dental restoration that can bring back the tooth’s standard size, shape, colour, strength, and function.
Do I need a crown?
Not all damaged or irregular teeth need dental crowns. Before considering this alternative and ruling out more conservative options like veneers or composite bonding, patients need to understand when this restoration is necessary.
Dental crowns are an ideal alternative to:
- Restore teeth that have been severely affected by decay or trauma.
- Strengthen root-filled teeth.
- Replace extensive fillings.
- Level your teeth size, shape, or colour (cosmetic reasons).
What type of crown should I choose?
Crowns can be made of a wide variety of materials – each of them has its advantages, disadvantages and indications. Choosing the type of crown will depend on several factors, including the number of remaining teeth, patients’ budgets and needs, and the technology available.
Among the most widely-used materials for dental crowns, we find:
- Porcelain Fused to Metal (PFM) Crowns
These hybrid crowns were broadly used in the past. New alternatives became available due to the development of modern dental materials and technologies, so PFM crowns are no longer that popular. But still, they are a worth-considering option: they are durable and more affordable than other alternatives. The main disadvantage is that the metal in these crowns may sometimes create a tinny grey line at the gum line, which may affect the smile’s aesthetic.
- Porcelain Crowns
Porcelain perfectly mimics the shade, texture and transparency of enamel. Porcelain crowns are the most aesthetic ones: they look like natural teeth. Although they are not as durable as other options (the material is more fragile), they are still the most popular alternative for front teeth.
- Zirconia Crowns
Zirconia is a relatively modern material that combines the metal’s strength with porcelain’s natural look. Although this material is not as aesthetic as porcelain, crowns made of this material last longer and are less likely to chip or break. Zirconia crowns are an excellent choice for back teeth: they resist chewing pressures and require minimal enamel removal.
Does it hurt to get a dental crown?
Getting a dental crown is pain-free. You are numbed as soon as the procedure starts, so you don’t need to worry about sensitivity or discomfort. However, some patients have reported experiencing pain some days after the treatment. This is entirely normal, as the body needs to get used to this new restoration. Still, if this discomfort lasts more than 14 days, it is advisable to schedule a consultation for a quick examination.
What does getting a dental crown involve?
The dentist needs at least two sessions two complete this treatment: one for the preparation of the tooth and another one for crown bonding. The steps of the procedure vary according to the type of crown chosen, but in general, the treatment goes as follows:
- Tooth preparation: after applying local anaesthesia, the dentist removes any decay or infected tissue affecting the damaged tooth. Then, the tooth is shaped to house the new restoration. Each material has a different preparation: porcelain requires more enamel reduction than zirconia, and PMF crowns need a particular shape.
- Impressions: impressions can be analogic (traditional mould) or digital (the tooth preparation is scanned with a dental scanner). These impressions are physically or virtually sent to the dental lab together with notes about the colour and shade that the dentist has chosen for the crown.
- Temporary crown: it may take a few weeks for the dental lab to manufacture the crown. In the meantime, a temporary crown is placed for cosmetic and technical reasons. During this time, the tooth may be more sensitive, and you will need to follow special instructions to avoid the debond of this crown.
- Placing the crown: when the crown is ready, the dentist will fit it in the prepared tooth and make the necessary adjustments. If both you and the dentists are happy with the results, the crown is permanently cemented in its place.
How long do dental crowns last?
The lifespan of a crown depends on several factors. The most important one is the type of crown: as mentioned before, some materials are more durable than others. However, oral hygiene is also a key factor: on average, a well-maintained crown can last between 10 and 20 years.
How to care for my dental crown
The key to keeping your crowns in good shape is to be aware of and prevent any potential damage:
- Avoid hard and sticky food: biting or chewy, sticky or hard food can de-bond and even crack your crown.
- Brush and floss often and carefully: dental plaque is the worst enemy of your natural teeth and any other dental restoration you might have. Be extra careful when flossing.
- Quit your bad habits: habits like biting your nails and chewing on pencils or other complex objects are hazardous for your restorations.
- Don’t skip appointments: visiting the dentist at least once a year for professional cleaning or a check-up is essential.
If you are interested in this treatment, we advise you to schedule a consultation with Dr Dubal. There are many options regarding materials and procedures, so visiting a professional with vast clinical experience is vital.