If you find that one of your teeth has significant damage due to weakness or decay, trauma or injury, your dentist may recommend a dental crown. Dental crowns are used to mimic the size, shape, and appearance of your formerly healthy teeth. They can be made from several types of materials, such as porcelain or ceramic, metal, resin, or a combination. Here’s how types of dental crowns differ.
Dental Crowns: What Are They?
In short, a dental crown is a cap that goes over a broken, damaged, or decayed tooth. Depending on the material, it can seamlessly fit into your mouth and look like the surrounding teeth. Or, it can be made of a material that looks a bit different but still fills the role of a fully healthy, functioning tooth.
The crown covers the entire tooth, like a cap or crown—thus, the name. To make sure the crown fits well, your dentist will begin the process by removing some of the enamel around the damaged tooth. This allows the crown to fully bond in place as well as remove any decay that could lead to an infection.
Why Are Dental Crowns Used?
If damage is minimal, your dentist will likely recommend a filling. If damage is too extensive, you may need a new tooth, and your dentist may recommend an implant, bridge, or even dentures, depending on how many teeth are affected. A dental crown is needed when there is significant damage, but the tooth and root are still healthy. Crowns can be used to:
- Support or strengthen a weak or damaged tooth
- Protect and repair a cracked, chipped, broken, or worn tooth
- Support a dental bridge
- Cover discolored or stained teeth
- Cover and protect a tooth after a root canal
- Cover a dental implant.
Types of Dental Crowns
With advancing technology, the choices in dental crowns are many. Some may better fit your unique needs; others may better suit your personal preferences or budget. The most common types of dental crowns include:
- Metal dental crowns: made with gold, palladium, nickel, or chromium. These types of dental crowns are popular because they’re long-lasting, rarely chipping or breaking, and can easily withstand normal use (i.e., biting and chewing forces). They also require minimal enamel removal. While these types of dental crowns have been used for decades, they are more noticeable due to their color. Some people prefer to use them only for out-of-sight molars. Others avoid them, preferring a tooth that better blends into the mouth.
- PFM (Porcelain-fused-to metal) dental crowns: this combination type of dental crown melds the durability of metal with a more natural color. While PFM dental crowns remain popular as they’re a long-lasting option (they can last as long as metal crowns), they do have a downside. Namely, the porcelain may chip away over time. This can allow the metal underneath to be exposed. The material may also wear away the enamel on the teeth they touch (when you open and close your mouth).
- Pressed ceramic dental crowns: these crowns are similar to PFM dental crowns. However, the core is made of a pressed ceramic rather than metal. The benefit is that these mimic natural tooth enamel well. They hold up and can be used both in the front and back of the mouth. Unfortunately, like PFM, they can also chip away over time.
- Porcelain or ceramic dental crowns: these dental crowns look the most like natural tooth enamel, and they’re also good for people who may have allergies to various metals. The most common material is a type of ceramic called zirconium dioxide. This material is very durable and can withstand the normal forces of biting and chewing. Another benefit is that the material doesn’t damage the opposing teeth.
- All-resin dental crowns: this option is generally more affordable than some of the other types of dental crowns. Unfortunately, they can also be more fragile than some of the other types of dental crowns. They typically last no more than three to five years. Thus, they’re often used only for temporary crowns.
- Same-day or CAD/CAM dental crowns: advanced technology has allowed dentists to create crowns in their offices to address your dental needs immediately. With computer-aided design and manufacturing (aka CAD/CAM), they can take a digital impression of your teeth and then design a custom crown with a machine onsite, milling the tooth out of a solid ceramic block. The obvious advantage is that you can have a dental crown made and set with a single office visit. They aren’t for all teeth or all conditions, so you’ll need to discuss this option with your dentist.
Advantages of Dental Crowns
Whichever type of dental crown you and your dentist determine is best for you and your situation, they can be used to help enhance your appearance and improve your ability to chew. They can also protect your teeth from further erosion.
The expected lifespan of most crowns is between five and 15 years before wear and tear becomes apparent. Most crowns last between 5 and 30 years, as long as they’re properly cared for and maintained. To help prolong the life of your crown, avoid chewing on ice cubes, hard nuts, popcorn kernels, or excessively sticky foods, such as caramels or taffy.
While you may experience some increased sensitivity in your mouth (such as to heat or cold) for the first few weeks, most people are able to get back to work, school, or other activities almost immediately after the crown is placed. You may also find your mouth (specifically the gums around the treated tooth) are a little sore or tender, but this usually fades within a day or two.
There are several considerations when determining which type of dental crown is right for your mouth and your situation. If you have a damaged tooth, contact our High Point Cosmetic Dentistry Practice at (366) 841-0000 to make an appointment today to improve the health and appearance of your smile and discuss which type of dental treatment may be most effective for you.