Dental Crowns: An Overview

A dental crown is basically a cap for a damaged tooth. Dental crowns can be made of various materials including porcelain, resin, metal, and combinations of different materials. Primarily, dental crowns are used to cover and protect the teeth. Dental crowns don’t require special care. Routine oral hygiene will often suffice.

The Lowdown on Dental Crowns

Over time, your teeth can get damaged. The damage can be attributed to injuries, cracked tooth and tooth decay. In some cases, teeth can wear down and lose their size or shape. This is where dental crowns can come in handy. The tooth-shaped caps are placed over the tooth like a snug hat.

The crown works by restoring the tooth’s shape, appearance, and strength. Dental crowns are cemented into place over the tooth and will cover the tooth’s visible parts.

Different Uses of Dental Crowns

Dental crowns are used for a variety of purposes. Some of the most common uses of dental crowns include:

  • To protect a weak tooth and prevent it from breaking
  • To keep a weak tooth together if some parts are cracked
  • To restore a broken or severely worn down tooth
  • To cover and support a tooth with a large filling
  • To cover a severely discolored tooth
  • To cover a misshapen tooth
  • To hold a dental bridge in place which replaces a missing tooth
  • To cover a tooth that has been root canal-treated
  • To connect with a dental implant to restore the missing tooth

How is a Dental Crown made?

Typically, two visits to the dentist will be required if you are getting a dental crown.

First Visit

During your first visit, the tooth getting the dental crown will be prepared and examined. An X-ray of the tooth and the surrounding bone will be taken. A root canal treatment may be done before the dental crown procedure if:

  • You have deep tooth decay that is penetrating into the nerve (pulp) of the tooth
  • You have a dental abscess
  • There is an injury to your tooth’s pulp

The tooth that will be getting the crown will be filed down on the biting surface and around the sides. This is done to make space for the crown. The amount of tooth that will be filed will depend on the type of crown you are getting. For instance, since all-metal crowns are thinner, they require less of the tooth to be filed compared to a porcelain crown.

If too much of the tooth is missing because of decay or damage, a filling material might be used to “build up” enough tooth structure for the crown. This is known as a core. After the tooth has been reshaped, a mould of the tooth where the crown will be placed  is taken.

A temporary crown is also made for the patient to wear home. This protects the tooth that has been trimmed while waiting for the final crown.

Second Visit

During the second visit, the final crown will be placed on the tooth.

A local anaesthetic may be used to numb the tooth so the crown can be cemented in place.

The temporary crown will be removed and the color and fit of the permanent crown is checked. If everything is good, the tooth and the inside of the crown are cleaned. The definitive cement is placed inside the crown and the crown is placed over the tooth. The excess cement is then removed.

Longevity of Dental Crowns

Typically, dental crowns can last between five to fifteen years. The longevity of a dental crown will depend on the wear-and-tear it is exposed to and how well it is looked after. While a crowned tooth won’t require special care, you still need to ensure the underlying tooth is protected from gum disease or decay.

In line with this, you should observe good oral hygiene practices like flossing and brushing your teeth at least twice daily. You need to also be mindful about chewing anything hard (ice, grit, shellfish, bone fragments or popcorn hulls) especially if you have porcelain crowns as they can crack.