Over your life span, there’s a chance your teeth can become damaged. Whether from tooth decay, injuries, or use over time, they can lose their shape or size. That’s where dental crowns (also known as caps) come into play as a dental restoration option. Picture it being a snug “hat” on your damaged tooth! It is cemented on top of your natural teeth to restore the shape, size, strength, and appearance while providing protection from further damage. A tooth crown can also help in preventing the need for more serious procedures like extractions or root canals because of the protection it offers.
There are several reasons why your dentist may suggest this procedure:
- To restore a severely worn down tooth or a broken tooth
- To protect a weak tooth from breaking or keep a cracked tooth together
- You have a large cavity that is too big for a filling
- To support a severely worn down or decayed tooth
- To assist in holding a dental bridge in place
Much like in the real world, there are various types of crowns in dentistry. Partial crowns (often called onlays) and 3/4 crowns don’t cover the full tooth as a traditional dental crown does. If you still have a solid tooth structure, this may be a more appropriate option for you and is often considered to be a more conservative approach. With a partial crown, the affected area is removed and the tooth is reshaped to receive the crown in order to restore strength to your weakened tooth.
A temporary crown is another type and is used when you need to protect a tooth while waiting for a permanent crown or even root canal treatment. This is a way to help you go about your day-to-day without pain and help prevent further damage. Temporary dental cement is used to hold it in place until your permanent one is ready.
The Dental Crown (Cap) Process
If you’re going to be undergoing a dental crown procedure, it typically involves two office visits. At the first appointment, your dentist will prep your tooth and the second visit involves the actual placement.
Let’s dive into what the crown preparation process looks like. When you come in for the first dental visit for your crown, your dentist will do a thorough examination and prep the tooth. This involves taking some x-rays of both the tooth itself along with the bone around it. It’s not uncommon to discover tooth decay and a risk of infection or any injury to the pulp of the tooth (this is the soft tissue inside your teeth where your blood vessels, connective tissue, and nerves live). These are all signals that indicate a need for root canal treatment before moving ahead with the cap.
Assuming no concerns are found, your dentist will numb the tooth and surrounding area before filing it down across the top and sides to make room for the crown. The amount of filling necessary is really dependent on what type of crown you’re going to be getting. Some are thinner (metal crowns), whereas at Advanced Dental Arts we use porcelain crowns, which require more space to place. In cases where there is a lot of damage or decay on the surface, we use a filling material to build up the structure to ensure the crown can be placed properly.
Once the tooth has been shaped, your dentist will use a paste or putty to take an impression of both the tooth itself, as well as the ones above and below it. This helps ensure your bite will not be affected! The impressions get sent over to a lab, who then creates the custom crown. For porcelain crowns, your dentist will also work with you to select the right shade to match your natural tooth colour. In cases where there is a need to protect your tooth while waiting on the lab, your dentist may recommend a temporary crown on your tooth.
The second visit is when the permanent crown placement happens on the prepared tooth. If you have a temporary crown in place, your dentist will remove that before checking the fit and colour of the permanent one. Assuming no issues on either fit or colour, it gets cemented in place and crown placement is complete! In some cases, your dentist may use a local anesthetic or numbing drug to keep the process as pain-free as possible.
Some offices do have equipment that allows them to offer same-day crowns. The process is much the same as above, except when it comes to how the crown is made. A scanning device (wand) takes a digital picture of the tooth, the computer then builds out a 3D model, sending it over to another in-office machine to carve. These are typically ready to cement in place in about 15 minutes.
Different Crown Types
Not all crowns are made from the same material. Depending on your situation, your dentist will suggest a specific material or a combination of materials.
Metal crowns are created out of gold. They typically last a long time and are fairly resistant to chipping and breaking and often don’t impact the surrounding natural teeth. The biggest drawback is that it is a gold crown, which means it isn’t the most natural look.
Composite crowns offer a very natural look. Although they are a bit stronger than porcelain crowns and less likely to chip, normal chewing does wear them down. The highly polished surface also is more likely to stain, and tooth brushing can impact the polished surface.
Porcelain crowns are by far the most natural option, however, they are more prone to chipping. Typically they aren’t used on back teeth because of their more brittle nature.
Porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns offer a way to keep your look natural, with additional strength. This means they are less likely to chip versus porcelain or ceramic crowns. There is a chance that some metal could show if your gums are naturally thin.
Caring For Your Crown
Caring for your new smile is pretty easy! You will want to make sure you continue to practice proper dental care and oral hygiene – brush twice a day, floss daily. Be mindful of hard foods, particularly with porcelain crowns, as you want to reduce the risk of fracture. Are you a tooth grinder or teeth clencher at night? A night guard may be a good way to protect your new crown and the surrounding teeth. A well-cared-for crown can last anywhere between five and 15 years.
What Does it Cost?
This question is hard to answer, as it really varies depending on the type of crown your dentist provides or feels is the best fit for you. As a general note, porcelain crowns are usually more expensive than metal crowns, and those are often more expensive than porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns. In Winnipeg, the cost can range anywhere between $1,200 to $1,600 or more per crown. In cases where a root canal is required first, the total cost can be $2,600 or more but can vary based on a variety of factors. Insurance may cover some of the cost, and our team can work with you to understand your specific coverage. We do also offer financing.
Overall, crowns are an effective and very safe way to prevent further decay and correct your teeth. It is always important to let your dentist know if you are experiencing any pain or if you’ve had an injury to your mouth. Letting problems linger can lead to the need for a more intense treatment option.
If you have any questions about dental crowns, we’re here to help. Our team is here to walk you through the process and chat about your concerns.