Think of a dental crown as a king or queen’s crown but for your tooth. Your teeth are royalty.
Dental crowns are used for a number of dental procedures, often the last step in the dental implant process. No matter the reason, they are a crucial prosthesis.
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 filling
- Support for a dental bridge
- Covering for discolored or oddly shaped teeth
When it comes to children, a dentist can decide to use a crown, usually stainless steel. 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
Dental Crown Types
The different types of crowns can be made of stainless steel, metal, gold, alloy, porcelain, resin, and ceramic.
Stainless steel crowns are usually used on permanent teeth, usually temporarily. These are often good options for kids as they fall out naturally as the child’s primary teeth grow in.
Zirconia is a very popular type of dental crown right now. It’s a metal-free crystal material and it’s often just one piece that’s implanted into the jaw bone.
Crowns made of metals (gold, alloy, platinum) can withstand a lot of pressure, making them great for chewing and long lasting. The main downside is the metallic and unnatural color.
Porcelain crowns, often fused to metal, can match the color of the adjacent teeth, so they can look very realistic. But what will happen is the teeth opposite a porcelain-fused-to-metal crown will wear down easily.
All-resin crowns are probably the most affordable type of crown. One big drawback is that they wear down easily, making them more susceptible to cracks than other crowns.
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.
And the second visit will be the actual 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 experienced decay, the dentist may fill out the tooth area so the crown will fit.
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. Those dental crown moldings 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 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 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.
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 impression to the computer software, allowing the process to move along a lot quicker.
Dental Crown Pain
Even if your dentist places a crown in your mouth, that doesn’t mean you’ll be pain-free, even after the surgical site heals completely. If you do experience pain after a crown, it is an urgent issue that you should contact your dentist about ASAP.
Some of the causes of dental crown pain:
- Tooth misalignment (especially if you suffer from bruxism)
- Bacteria buildup (allowed because of leakages in other fillings)
- Nerve damage (from the pressure of the crown)
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 first determine if you’re grinding your teeth, which usually happens at night. Symptoms of grinding your teeth include tight jaw muscles, pain when you wake up, and swelling.
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.
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 — you should treat it like your natural teeth.
But here are some more specific ways you can care for your crown:
- Don’t eat sticky or very chewy foods because they can loosen the crown
- Right after you get a permanent crown or anytime wearing a temporary crown, try minimizing the use of that side of your mouth
- Avoid 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
How Long Do Dental Crowns Last?
The length that a crown lasts depends on the skill and knowledge of the dentist and the patient’s aftercare, the wear and tear the crown experiences, the material of the crown, and the patient’s overall health.
Dental Crown Problems
Unfortunately, getting a dental crown is not without risk. Just like any surgical procedure, you can experience postoperative issues, sometimes that 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.
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 hotness or coldness. Because of this, your dentist may recommend a toothpaste specifically to treat that.
If you feel pain or discomfort when you bite down, it could mean that the crown is sitting to high on your tooth. So if you have pain when biting, call your dentist to schedule an appointment.
Sometimes a crown can get chipped. If it’s a small chip, the dentist can usually repair it with resin without removing the crown. However, if the chip is severe enough, you may need a new crown.
With a cemented crown, sometimes the cement can get washed away. 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 steady as your natural tooth.
On more rare occasions, a crown can simply fall out. This is usually due to other untreated issues, like a loose crown and tooth decay.
If your crown does come off, first clean the crown and your tooth. For a temporary fix, you can use dental adhesive to reattach the crown at home. In any case, contact your dentist for a follow-up.
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.
Is A Dental Crown Right For You?
Whether you’re considering a dental implant, you need a cavity filling, or you’ve experienced a damage tooth, you might be wondering if a dental crown is right for you.
They definitely offer a lot of benefits, but the best place to start is with your dentist. We recommend you contact your dentist to speak about specifics and if you should get a dental crown or not.