A dental crown, also called a cap is a hollow, artificial tooth used to cover a damaged or decayed one. The crown restores the tooth and protects it from further damage. Crowns can also be used to cover a discolored or misshapen tooth. The tooth that has been fixed with a crown looks and works very much likes a natural tooth.
If you need to have a tooth crowned, your dentist may do it, or he or she may refer you to a prosthodontist. A prosthodontist is a dentist who has completed a university post graduate specialty program in prosthodontics. Prosthodontics is a specialty of dentistry that deals with restoring and replacing natural teeth and tissues with artificial substitutes.
How a crown is done?
First your dentist gives you a local anesthetic, because in order to make room for the crown, the tooth that needs to be restored has to be filed down. An impression of the filed-down tooth and nearby teeth are taken. This impression is used to custom make your final crown. The crown is built using restorative material (material used for fillings) based on the impression. The final crown will be the right shape for your mouth.
Until your final crown is ready, your dentist places a temporary crown over the tooth that needs to be restored. The temporary crown is made from an impression of your tooth before it was filed down. It protects your tooth until the final crown is ready. A temporary crown may not have the same shape and color as a final crown.
On your next visit, your dentist takes off the temporary crown and puts on the final one. Your dentist checks to make sure the crown is the right fit, shape, color and bite. If it is, your dentist cements the crown into place. These are the steps dentists most often follow in making a crown, but your tooth may need special care. You may need orthodontic treatment, gum treatment or root canal treatment. It may take more than 2 visits to your dentist, or your visits may last longer.
Different types of crowns
Crowns are made from various types of materials. Depending on which tooth needs a crown, the dentist will suggest a material that is right for you.
Metal crowns are made of gold. They generally last a long time and won’t chip or break. They tend not to wear down your opposing natural teeth. However, the gold color does not look natural, particularly on front teeth.
Composite crowns look natural. They won’t chip as easily as porcelain crowns, but they tend to wear more quickly from chewing. Tooth brushing tends to remove the highly polished surface of composite crowns and this causes them to stain more easily.
Porcelain crowns look the most natural. They are more brittle than metal or composite and may chip more easily. Because of this, they are not usually placed on back teeth.
Porcelain fused to metal crowns look natural and are stronger than porcelain or composite crowns. They won’t chip as easily as porcelain or ceramic crowns. However, depending on their design, the metal may show if your gums are thin or shrink.
Crowns are strong and generally last for about 10 years or longer if you take good care of them. Brush and floss your crown, just like you clean your natural teeth. Crowns may not be as strong as your natural teeth. So like your natural teeth, remember not to bite down on hard objects or use your teeth to open or cut things.