What is a Dental Crown?
Dental crowns are a very common procedure at most surgeries, so common, in fact, that the dental staff sometimes forget that the patients might not know what they are talking about when they mention them in a treatment plan!
So what is a dental crown? The answer is really rather simple…
A Simple Definition
Dental crowns are what is known as ‘fixed prosthetic devices’. This means that, unlike removable devices like dentures, crowns are cemented on to existing teeth or dental implants.
They are designed to last, and are only routinely removed by a dentist at the end of their long lifespans.
How Do Dental Crowns Work?
The clue of how crowns work is in their name. Similar to a royal crown, they fit over the ‘head’ of the tooth to provide protection.
A better metaphorical description might be to think of them as motorcycle helmets.
In much the same way as a motorcycle helmet totally encapsulates your head, so too crowns are designed to totally encapsulate the portion of remaining tooth or implant structure above the gum line. They are also known as ‘Caps’, in that they cap the tooth in this way.
Your Dentist May Recommend One Because…
- Covering over an anaesthetic tooth,
- Capping off and implant,
- Providing a good seal over a tooth that has had root canal treatment,
- Protecting a weakened tooth from further fracture,
- Allowing the facilitation or attachment of a bridge/denture,
- Replacing a large filling when there is insufficient tooth to rebuild the filling.
The Process For Getting A Crown Made
During the crown preparation appointment, your dentist will get you comfortable and the tooth numb.
They will then take a series of impressions of the tooth and perform a ‘tooth preparation’ This involves removing between 1 - 2 millimetres from all surface of the teeth. This reduction in tooth size will create space for the crown to fit over the tooth.
After the dentist has done this they will take a very accurate impression/digital scan of the remaining tooth structure. this will be sent to a lab and the crown will be made from the impression. A shade will be chosen for the tooth.
The dentist will provide you with a temporary crown which will be in place in the interim between crown preparation and cementation of the crown. The length of time then to fit the crown will depend on if it is being totally made by hand or ‘milled’ by a 3D printing type machine.
At a subsequent appointment, the temporary crown is removed and is replaced with the permanent one. Make sure your dentist shows you what it looks like before they cement it, so that you are happy with the shade match. Insist that they do this by the window or some other natural light source, so you can be sure the shade match will be right.
What Are Crowns Made From?
There are four main types of crowns, with various subtypes.
These are commonly used to restore your front teeth. they are very good at blending in with the surrounding natural tooth colors, and are therefore the best option for this ‘shop front window’ of your smile!
Porcelain Fused to Metal
These crowns have a metal substructure which provides strength and a high bonding capacity in the underlying tooth.
They are overlaid with porcelain which provides good aesthetics. Although they are very strong, sometimes the metal can vaguely show through giving a greyish hue to the overall crown.
These crowns are a blend of gold copper and other metals. Gold is an excellent material to use in the mouth because it is quite biocompatible (which means it doesn't tend to cause reactions with the body), and is also very malleable.
This malleability means that it bonds well to the tooth, is kind to the underlying tooth, and is not liable to fracture.
The main problem is of course the aesthetics. Unless you are a gangster, they tend to be confined to use at the back of the mouth!
Base Metal Alloys
These crowns are composed of non-noble metals, and they offer that advantage of being corrosion resistant and also allowing for a ‘conservative preparation’ of your recipient tooth.
That means that the dentist only has to remove minimal tooth substance to create room for them.
How Long Will A Crown Last?
Crowns need very regular and thorough cleaning, otherwise plaque and decay can get in around the microscopic ‘join’ between the tooth and the crown itself. Special floss know as ‘Superfloss’ has been designed allow you to get into these difficult to reach places!
Mouthrinse helps mechanically flush out debris which would otherwise collect around the crowns, and it can improve breath and reduce secondary decay.
Interdental brushes are like little bottle brushes for cleaning the whole mouth. They are a great option if you are always on the go, as they can be used like a tooth pick. make sure to get the ultra soft type if you have crowns. TePe make great quality multi-use varieties.
So what is a dental crown? Just a way to reunite the tooth substance again, even it is quite broken down.
Their cost can vary from 1500 to 3000 AUD depending on complexity and materials used. This initial outlay however is often cheaper than repeatedly patching up broken down teeth with fillings.
You will find you get the best out of your crowns if you:
- Try not to defer their placement for too long (often times patients know they need a crown and hold off because of cost, only t have the tooth completely fracture in an unrestorable way,
- Once you have your crown, maintain with regular brushing, checkups and interdental cleaning.
If you have any questions or queries about dental crowns, please leave a comment below or visit our homepage here.