Many dental procedures seem somewhat mysterious to patients even when they are common within the population. Few people manage to leave childhood without getting a cavity, but today, within a population of people with overall good health, access to modern dentistry, and fluoridated water, many people are less aware which dental procedures are used to correct specific dental problems and why. So, here we will address just what is a dental crown and when and why do people need them.
A dental crown is sort of the inverse of a dental filling. A filling is used to “fill in” the holes of compromised teeth to halt any further tooth deterioration. A crown or “cap,” as it’s sometime commonly known as, is installed over a tooth to strengthen it, hold it together, or improve its aesthetic appearance. Generally speaking, a crown is more of a big gun solution to a increasingly complex tooth problem, but some people choose to cap teeth for non-medical reasons – such as wanting a perfect looking smile.
Crowns can also be used in tandem with fillings. Sometimes too little remains of the original tooth because of wear or cavities, or the tooth itself will be cracked and unstable. In these situations a dentist may recommend crowning what is left to save the appearance of the tooth and avoid tooth loss. Crowns can also be used to cover dental implants, to hold dental bridges in place, or to cover unsightly looking teeth.
Crowns come in a number of different materials: stainless steel, gold or other metal alloys, porcelain-fused-to-metal, resin, and ceramic. Stainless steel crowns are mostly used in child patients who only need to keep their baby teeth for a short time. Crowns made from gold and other metal alloys will last longer. They are remarkably stable and wear only slowly over time. However, much of the population does not want to flash gold (or other metal) plated teeth when they smile, so these types of crowns are most commonly installed on back molars.
Porcelain or porcelain-fused-to-metal are more natural looking alternatives as the color of the porcelain can be matched to adjacent teeth. But neither of these are as long lasting as metal alone, nor is resin. Porcelain-fused-to-metal fillings are stronger, but if the thin line of the crown’s metal base begins to show in a patient’s mouth, it can look like further tooth deterioration.
Since dental crowns are more expensive to install than fillings, it’s important to evaluate each tooth situation carefully since you will not want to replace them frequently. A reputable dentist will be able to lay out options and help the patient decide on what are the best options to treat the weakened tooth or teeth.
Patients who have had had dental crowns installed understand that crowns do not last forever, but utilizing a skilled dentist and practicing proper dental care at home will extend the lifetime of the crown – and the patient. If we at Dental Associates of West Michigan can help advise you on how to solve a dental problem, please give us a call so we can discuss which options would be best for saving or enhancing your smile.