Dental Crown: Procedure, Types, Care & Problems

A dental crown is like the crown of a king or queen, but for your tooth. Your teeth are royalty!

Dental crowns are used for a number of dental procedures, including as the last step in the dental implant process. No matter the reason, they are a crucial part of the treatment.

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What Is A Dental Crown?

A dental crown is a prosthetic tooth that is fixed in place, unlike removable dentures. A crown is cemented onto either a dental implant or a natural tooth. A dental professional is the only person who is able to remove it.

What Does A Dental Crown Look Like?

Simply put, crowns look like natural teeth. One of the main reasons for getting a crown is for aesthetic purposes (the other being functionality).

You can get a tooth-colored crown or, if you want a fancier option, a gold crown. There are also other types of crowns, which we’ll talk about in a minute.

When Is A Dental Crown Needed?

There are several situations in which crowns are necessary for adults. Some of them include:

  • Covering for a dental implant
  • Protection for a weak or broken tooth
  • Restoration of a severely worn down or broken tooth
  • Support and protection for a tooth with a large filling
  • Support for a dental bridge
  • Covering for discolored or oddly shaped teeth

Here are some of the reasons a child may need a crown:

  • To save a damaged or decaying tooth
  • Protection for a tooth that’s at a higher risk of tooth decay
  • Alternative to certain dental procedures that require anesthesia or surgery
A dental crown is the part of an implant that looks like a natural tooth. It sits on top of the abutment, which screws into the actual implant, which is fused to the jaw bone.

Dental Crown Types

The different types of crowns can be made of stainless steel, base metal, gold, alloy, porcelain, resin or ceramic.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel crowns are usually used on baby teeth or as a temporary crown on permanent teeth. These are prefabricated metal shells that help protect a tooth for a short time. When used on baby teeth, they fall out as the permanent teeth grow in.

Zirconia

Zirconia is a very popular type of dental crown right now. It’s a metal-free, tooth-colored material that is very strong. Some dental implants are also made of zirconia.

Metals

Crowns made of metals (gold, alloy, platinum) can withstand a lot of pressure, making them durable and long lasting. The main downside is the metallic and unnatural color.

Porcelain

Porcelain crowns, often fused to metal, can be customized to match the color of the adjacent teeth. This means they can look very natural. Porcelain is the best type of crown where esthetics are a concern.

Resin

All-resin crowns are probably the most affordable type of permanent crown. One big drawback is that they wear down easily, making them more susceptible to cracks than other crowns.

The type of crown you choose (stainless steel, zirconia, base metal, gold, alloy, porcelain, resin, or ceramic) depends on how long you want it to last, how real you want it to look, and what your budget is.

Dental Crown Procedure

So how is a crown done?

If you are in need of a dental crown, you should expect to make two trips to the dentist’s office. The first visit will involve the examination and preparation of the tooth.

The second visit will be the procedure where the dentist places the crown.

Dental Crown Traditional Process

During your first visit, your dentist will probably take a few X-rays to make sure the teeth roots are healthy. If the tooth receiving the crown has substantial decay or if there’s a high risk of infection, they may have to perform a root canal first.

Then they will prepare the tooth to receive the crown. The dentist will numb the tooth and the surrounding area before filing down the tooth along the chewing surface and sides. This will make room for the crown. If the tooth has significant decay, the dentist may build up the tooth with a filling material so the crown will fit properly.

At this first visit, you’ll receive a temporary dental crown to protect the prepared tooth while you wait for the permanent crown to be manufactured.

The dentist will then use either putty or a digital scanner to get an impression of your tooth and the area around it. The dental crown molds or scans go to a dental lab where they will create the crown. After about two weeks, they deliver the crown to the dentist’s office.

During your second visit, the dentist will take off the temporary crown and then test the fit and color of the permanent crown. If everything looks good, the dentist will cement the new crown in place (it’s rare that they’ll need to administer anesthesia for this step, but it is a possibility).

Dental Crown In An Hour

An alternative to the traditional method of placing a crown is the “crown in an hour” procedure. This is where a dentist places the crown in just one appointment and usually in less than one hour.

Thanks to CAD (computer aided design) and CAM (computer aided manufacturing) technology, dentists are able to do this in one visit. This technology has actually been around since the late 1980s but has improved significantly in the last decade.

With CAD, the tooth impression goes into a piece of software that designs the custom crown for the patient. And the CAM technology creates the custom crown quicker than a lab could create it.

The steps involved in a dental crown in an hour are almost exactly the same as a traditional crown. The main difference is that they send the scan to the computer software, allowing the crown to be made on site. This also means you will not need a temporary crown.

Dental Crown Pain

It is rare to have problems once a crown is placed, but occasionally there may be issues. If you experience pain after a crown, you should contact your dentist about it ASAP.

Some of the causes of dental crown pain:

  • Bite needing adjustment (especially if you grind your teeth)
  • Open crown margins creating sensitivity
  • Nerve damage (from having had deep decay)

If you’re feeling dental crown pain, the first thing you should do is call your dentist and ask for an urgent appointment. They will check to see if there is a high spot interfering with your bite and adjust it as needed. They will also check for infection or nerve issues.

Whatever the case, the moment you experience crown pain you should contact your dentist.

How Much Does A Dental Crown Cost?

The cost of a crown depends on the material used, the dentist’s charge, and how much insurance will cover. It’s rare that you can get a free dental crown, but you can still get them for a very affordable price.

Typically, one crown can cost between $500 and $3,000. For more details on the cost of crowns, check out our Tooth Crown Costs Guide.

However you have your crown placed, you may have some postoperative pain. This can be managed with rest, ice, and medication. One crown can cost between $500 and $3,000, depending on type.

Dental Crown Care

Obviously, keeping a good oral hygiene routine is important to cut down on bacteria and prevent crown pain. This means you’ll need to brush your crown like your natural teeth.

Here are some more specific ways you can care for your crown:

  • Avoid sticky or very chewy foods because they can loosen or pull off a crown
  • Try not to chew on the side of your mouth where you have a temporary crown or newly placed permanent crown
  • Avoid extremely hard foods as they could also fracture the crown
  • When flossing around a temporary crown, slide the floss out from between your teeth rather than pulling upwards
After you get a crown, you should focus on keeping your mouth healthy. You should avoid chewy or hard foods, you should try to chew food on the opposite side of your mouth, and you should be gentle when flossing that side of your mouth.

How Long Do Dental Crowns Last?

The lifespan of a crown depends on the skill of the dentist, the patient’s aftercare, the wear and tear the crown experiences, the material the crown is made of, and the patient’s overall health.

Generally, dental crowns will last between 5 to 15 years.

Dental Crown Problems

Unfortunately, getting a dental crown is not without risk. Just like any surgical procedure, you can experience postoperative issues. Sometimes these are out of your control and out of your dentist’s control. For example, some teeth respond unfavorably to the vibration during the procedure or the heat that the dental drill generates.

Here are some dental crown problems you may experience.

Sensitivity

Right after the procedure, your crowned tooth may become sensitive as the anesthesia wears off. This is the most common complication following a crown placement.

If the nerve is still intact, you could potentially be sensitive to heat or cold. Because of this, your dentist may recommend a toothpaste specifically for sensitivity.

If you feel pain or discomfort when you bite down, it could mean that the biting surface of the crown needs adjusting. If you have pain when chewing or biting, call your dentist to schedule an appointment.

Chipped Crown

Sometimes the porcelain of a crown can become chipped. If it’s a small chip, the dentist can usually smooth it or repair it with resin without removing the crown. If the chip is severe enough, however, you may need a new crown.

Loose Crown

Over time the cement holding a crown in place may break down. This can make the crown loose, which then allows bacteria to seep in and cause tooth decay. If your crown feels at all loose, call your dentist. It should feel as sturdy as your natural tooth.

Crown Coming Off

On more rare occasions, a crown can simply fall out. This is usually due to issues like failing cement or tooth decay.

If your crown does come off, first clean the crown and your tooth. For a temporary fix, you can use temporary cement available at most drug stores to reattach the crown at home. In any case, contact your dentist for a follow-up. There may be underlying problems that caused the crown to come off.

Allergic Reaction

If you’re allergic to metals, you may experience a reaction after getting a crown. Many crowns are made of multiple types of metals or porcelain. This is a rare occurrence.

After you get a crown, you may experience extra sensitivity, chipping, a loose crown, or even a crown that falls out. All of these problems can be corrected by your dentist.

Is A Dental Crown Right For You?

Whether you’re considering a dental implant, you need a cavity filled, or you’ve damaged a tooth, you might be wondering if a dental crown is right for you.

The best place to start is with your dentist’s office. We recommend you contact your dentist to have the area examined and to determine if you need a dental crown.

Summary

  • A dental crown is the part of an implant that looks like a natural tooth. It sits on top of the abutment, which screws into the actual implant, which is fused to the jaw bone.
  • The type of crown you choose (stainless steel, zirconia, metal, gold alloy, porcelain, resin, or ceramic) depends on how long you want it to last, how natural you want it to look, and your budget.
  • Crown procedures may involve some postoperative pain. You can usually manage it with rest, ice, and medication. One crown can cost $500 to $3,000.
  • After a crown is placed, you should focus on keeping your mouth healthy. You should avoid chewy or extremely hard foods, you should try to chew food on the opposite side of your mouth, and you should be gentle when flossing that side of your mouth.
  • After you get a crown, you may experience extra sensitivity, chipping, a loose crown, or even a crown that comes out of place. All of these problems can be corrected by your dentist.