Everything You Need to Know about Dental Crowns

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What is a Dental Crown?

A dental crown is an artificial cap that fits in place of a damaged or discolored tooth. Crowns are most often used to fully replace a tooth (in the case of a dental implant); or to help shape a broken tooth, or otherwise improve your mouth's appearance.

These days, crowns are created mostly of porcelain or ceramics, but can also be made of gold, acrylic or metal alloys. Your dentist can recommend the appropriate material based on your oral needs.

Why Would I Need a Dental Crown?

  • repair a broken tooth or a tooth that has been worn down
  • repair and cover a tooth that has been treated by a root canal
  • replace a missing tooth as part of a bridge
  • replace a missing tooth on a dental implant
  • cover discolored or poorly shaped teeth to improve aesthetic appearance
  • repair or protect a tooth that has large amount of decay, chips or cracks 
  • close minor gaps or fix minor tooth alignment issues

Common types of crowns include:

  • Porcelain-Fused-to-Metal (PFM) Crowns:  Porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns are the most common type of crown used by dentists. They can be color matched to your other teeth and are the most common type of crown used. PFM crowns are very strong, have a good appearance, and are reasonably priced. They are most commonly recommended for rear teeth, as the metal base provides a strong core that can withstand the pressure exerted on back teeth during chewing. However, in full natural light, the metal base can show through as a shadow in the tooth, especially for front teeth. Also, over time, if the gums recede from the crown, the metal base can be seen as a dark line that will show where the crown meets the gum. All types of alloys are used. Porcelain can be fused to a standard alloy base which can be comprised of metals such as nickel or chromium, or they can be fused to precious metals such as platinum, silver, or gold. The precious metals cost more than standard alloys.
  • Full Porcelain/Ceramic Crowns:  Full porcelain or full ceramic crowns provide the best natural appearance and are an excellent choice for patients with metal allergies. They are most commonly used for front teeth, as they have an excellent natural appearance. However, they are not as strong as PFM crowns, are usually more expensive and can be prone to chipping or cracking. As such, they are not typically used for rear teeth.
  • Zirconia Crowns:  Zirconia crowns are the strongest crown available and also have an excellent natural appearance comparable to full porcelain or full ceramic crowns. They are also the most expensive. Zirconia crowns are virtually indestructible and can be used for front or rear teeth. Since they are so hard, they can wear on the other teeth. They can either be milled out of solid blocks of zirconia, or used as a strong, natural looking base fused to a porcelain veneer. Since zirconia crowns are so durable, they can me made much thinner than other crowns and require less removal of the tooth for placement.
  • Temporary Crowns: Temporary crowns are usually created from an acrylic material that can be temporarily cemented onto the tooth while the permanent crowns are being prepared by the dental laboratory. They can be fitted immediately after preparation is done on the tooth for a permanent crown.

How Long Do Crowns Last?

Typically crowns last for about 10-15 years, although many patients will have their crowns for a lifetime. Zirconia crowns or full gold/metal crown are the longest lasting. 

Crowns need to be replaced when they have chipped or broken, although most crown failures are caused by other issues such as decay of the tooth under the crown or by gum disease.  Proper oral hygiene is important in maintaining crowns.

How Long Does It Take for My Dentist to Install a Crown?

Until recently, getting a dental crown usually involved multiple visits and many hours in the dentist chair. Now, with the help of computer-aided design (and a process called CEREC (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramic), teeth can often be prepped and crowns fitted in a matter of hours. Increasingly dental offices are equipped with their own labs, which speeds work and often allows for same-day fittings.

What is the Process for Making Crowns?

First, your dentist examines the tooth, takes x-rays to check for cavities and the structure of the tooth root. Then the area is prepared for the crown by filing down and reshaping your tooth. Local anesthetics are usually given during this phase of treatment. If needed, your dentist will take impressions of the tooth which are then sent off to the dental laboratory, where the crowns are custom-crafted. 

After the lab has crafted the crowns, the dentist will check for good color and fit and make sure the new crown lines up correctly with your bite. If all is in order, your dentist will permanently cement the crown into place.

Does It Hurt to Have Teeth Prepared for Crowns?

Normally your dentist will apply a local anaesthetic to the surrounding area, and you should feel no pain. If a temporary crown is installed at the same time of an extraction or implant, you may experience greater discomfort. If you are sensitive to pain (and who isn't!) consult with your dentist about pain-reducing alternatives.

Can Crowns Be Made to Match My Surrounding Teeth?

Absolutely!  As part of the crown preparation process, the dentist will color-match your new crowns to the surrounding teeth so they blend in naturally.  If you wish to have teeth whitening, ask for this treatment prior to color matching and preparing the crowns so that the crown will match your new, whiter smile. 

Can My Existing Crowns Be Whitened?

Unfortunately, existing crowns cannot be laser whitened.  If your existing crowns are very old and discolored, they would need to be replaced with new crowns if you desire an improved appearance.

How Do I Get Started?

At Dental Departures, you can choose from thousands of clinics and oral surgeons around the world who deliver top quality crowns at a fraction the price that you would pay at home.

Our website contains all the information you need to research top clinic locations and start comparing quotes for dental crowns. We operate a best price guarantee to ensure that you get an unbeatable deal, and we also enjoy close affiliations with several independent insurance providers who can provide medical insurance for extra peace of mind.

If you have any queries, our Customer Care Team is always happy to answer your questions via our online chat facility, by e-mail or on our toll-free telephone number.

Rossarin Phinyowan

My passion is travel and researching my next destination. I am a medical/travel writer and currently write content for Dental and Medical Departures.
To get in touch with this author, or for more info regarding this article, please contact us at author@dentaldepartures.com
This article is meant for information purposes only and is not intended to be dental advice or instructions for dental diagnosis or treatment. Please consult with your dentist or a qualified dental professional before starting or changing dental treatment
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