What Are Dental Crowns?
Dentists refer to the surface of a tooth covered by enamel as a crown. If the surface of your tooth fractures, chips, or breaks due to an accident or dental disease, your dentist will need to place a crown over it to save the tooth and prevent it from sustaining further damage.
A dental crown fits over your damaged tooth to restore the appearance, function, and shape. One of the goals of placing a dental crown is for the treated tooth to look and function like the rest of the teeth. The most common materials used to create dental crowns include ceramics, composite resin, metals, or porcelain. Dental crowns are typically the same color as the tooth but can also be gold, metal, or silver.
Other times you may need a dental crown include after receiving a dental implant, root canal, dental bridge, or a dental prosthetic. Your dentist considers the following factors when determining which type of dental crown to recommend:
- Location of the tooth
- Current functionality of the tooth
- Portion of the tooth that shows when you smile
- Whether you show symptoms of grinding or clenching your teeth
- Shade and color of nearby teeth
When is a Crown Needed?
Dentists typically recommend dental crowns in these situations:
- Cracked Teeth: A crown helps to hold a cracked tooth together to preserve it.
- Large Fillings: Placing a crown on a tooth with a large filling that does not have a lot of tooth structure left can help to save the tooth.
- Tooth Discoloration: Tooth-colored crowns provide a cosmetic improvement when teeth show severe discoloration.
- Weak Teeth: Severe decay weakens tooth structure but placing a crown over the affected teeth helps to protect them.
- Worn Teeth: Dental erosion and teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, can result in worn teeth prone to additional oral health problems. Dental crowns help to restore strength to worn teeth.
When you receive a dental implant to replace a missing tooth, placement of a crown is the last step of the procedure. You should expect your artificial tooth roots to take two to three months to heal.
Implant Procedure: The first step in getting a dental implant is for your dentist to provide anesthesia and then drill a hole into your jawbone. Next, your dentist positions the post of the implant into the socket of the missing tooth. Artificial tooth roots consist of a tiny screw that naturally bonds with bone. After this area has healed, you return to the dentist for placement of an abutment that connects the artificial tooth to the screw. You receive a temporary cap over the post until your jaw has healed in a few months.
Role of Crowns: Your dental crown goes on top of the abutment to replace the temporary cap. Once your dentist has completed the implant procedure, the crown is the only visible part of your replacement tooth. Dental implants have the advantage of not decaying as traditional dental crowns can do. You should expect your implant to last the remainder of your life if you implement a daily oral healthcare routine.
Root Canal Treatment
When you need Endodontic treatment, also known as a root canal, placement of a crown is the last step. Endodontic treatment helps to preserve teeth with damage in the roots or infected dental pulp. Root canals differ from dental implants since your dentists restore the root of the tooth instead of replacing it with artificial tooth roots and an abutment.
Root Canal Procedure: Your dentist or Endodontist creates an opening via the natural crown to remove pulp using small, specialized dental equipment. You then receive a temporary filling on the top of the tooth.
Role of Crowns: After completing treatment, return to your dentist for proper restoration of the tooth with a dental crown. Your dentist may also treat the tooth with filling material if enough healthy tooth structure remains in the natural crown of the tooth.
With dental bridges, retainers that resemble crowns fit on each end and provide an anchor. Your dentist will recommend a cantilever, implant-supported, Maryland, or traditional bridge depending on the location or your missing teeth and the strength of the surrounding teeth.
Dental Bridge Procedure: A traditional dental bridge contains one or more artificial teeth held in place with crowns. These types of bridges usually fill a gap between one or several natural teeth on either side.
Role of Crowns: Your dentist will affix a retainer crown onto abutment teeth next to the missing teeth. Crowns cover cantilever and traditional bridges to enable the replacement teeth between them to withstand the force of chewing.
5 Types of Dental Crowns
Your dentist will use one of these five types of dental crowns depending on your needs:
Restorative material made from a combination of metal and porcelain is common with dental bridges and crowns. During the heating process, porcelain fuses to oxide to create a durable bond. Fusing the porcelain to metal makes a stronger crown because the metal structure supports it.
Metal Crowns & Gold Alloys
Metal crowns are resistant to fractures, offer a strong bond, and do not cause teeth to wear down. The metals used to create them are typically copper or gold. Non-noble metals are especially strong and resistant to corrosion. Your dentist will need to remove a small portion of your tooth structure before placing a metal crown.
Stainless Steel Crowns (SSCs)
If your child loses a baby tooth prematurely, the dentist will recommend a stainless steel crown after completing pulpotomy treatment. SSCs can also be a good option when the dentist thinks a typical filling might fail.
Cosmetic Crowns (Ceramic)
Porcelain is the primary material used for ceramic crowns. Dentists use porcelain to create crowns that look and function as much like a natural tooth as possible. You are a good candidate for a cosmetic ceramic crown if you are missing any of your front teeth. These crowns are especially durable and will not break or chip easily.
All-resin dental crowns are the most inexpensive option, but their lifespan is much shorter than other types of dental crowns due to their vulnerability to fractures. Dentists typically do not recommend them for this reason. The only time dentists might use resin restorations is to preserve baby teeth that have decayed.
Dental Crown Procedure: Step-By-Step
Dental crowns placed after a dental implant procedure or root canal usually take one day to complete. Some dental practices use onsite machines to create crowns the same day, which means you will not need to return for another visit.
First Visit: X-Ray, Tooth Reshaping & Temporary Crown Installation
The first step is for the dentist to take an X-ray of your tooth and jaw. Next, the dentist contours and reshapes the tooth in preparation for placing the crown. The last step is for the dentist to place a temporary crown if an onsite machine is not available to create a permanent crown during the same appointment.
Second Visit: Permanent Crown
Approximately three weeks after receiving your temporary crown, your dentist will remove it and place the permanent crown. The permanent dental crown will match the color and shape of your natural teeth as closely as possible. Your dentist will also make sure it fits comfortably in your mouth.
You can request anesthesia before the procedure to numb the area the dentist needs to treat. This will keep you the most comfortable. A special type of dental cement helps to keep the permanent crown in place.
Dental Crown Aftercare
Here are the best ways to take care of yourself and your new dental crown after treatment:
Your jaw may feel sore for a couple of days when the effects of the anesthesia wear off. You may also experience tooth and gum sensitivity. Ibuprofen should be adequate to manage the discomfort. Be sure to make a follow-up appointment with your dentist if the pain becomes severe or lasts more than a few weeks.
Foods to Avoid with a Temporary Dental Crown
While waiting for your permanent dental crown to come back from the laboratory, you will need to avoid certain foods that could cause it to break or come loose. These include:
- Candy, gum, and other sticky or chewy foods
- Bagels, nuts, chips, and other hard or crunchy foods
It is also a good idea to chew food on the opposite side of the mouth from the temporary crown and avoid flossing around it. You will only need to follow these restrictions for approximately 24 hours and can eat normally once you have your permanent crown.
How Much Does A Dental Crown Cost?
Dental insurance plans commonly pay half the cost of a crown when you visit an in-network dentist. The average dental crown costs $825, but the exact cost depends on the type of crown your dentist places. Here are the typical costs of each type before insurance pays anything:
- All-Resin Crowns: $600 to $1,300 per tooth
- Ceramic/Porcelain Crowns: $800 to $3,000 per tooth
- Gold and Metal Crowns: $800 to $1,400 per tooth
- Porcelain-Fused-to-Metal Crowns: $875 to $1,400 per tooth
- Stainless Steel Crowns: $300 to $500 per tooth
Does an HSA cover dental crowns?
You can use a Health Savings Account to pay your portion of treatment costs for a dental crown and many other procedures.
Do dental crowns hurt?
You receive a local anesthetic before any type of procedure involving a dental crown. This ensures you do not feel pain while the dentist works on your mouth, although you may experience mouth dryness. The treated tooth and jaw may feel sore for a few days once the anesthesia wears off.
How long does a crown last?
Most crowns last about 15 years with some lasting as long as 30 years when cared for properly. Be sure to keep up with your biannual preventive dentistry appointments and follow a regular oral healthcare routine at home to make your crown last as long as possible.