A crown is a dental restoration that covers or “caps” a tooth to restore it to its normal shape, size, and function. Its purpose is to strengthen or improve the appearance of a tooth and protect it from fracture. When the structural integrity of a tooth has been compromised by old filling materials, cracks and/or decay, a crown is the indicated treatment. A crown can:
- Restore a tooth when there isn’t enough tooth remaining to support a large filling
- Attach a bridge to replace missing teeth
- Protect a weak tooth from fracturing
- Restore a fractured tooth
- Cover a badly shaped or discolored tooth
- Cover a dental implant
Crowns are usually made out of metal, porcelain, or a combination of the two. Several steps are involved and two dental visits generally are needed to complete the treatment. The tooth is first cleaned of all existing fillings and decay, and refilled with a bonded restoration. This type of restoration is commonly called a core. Then the tooth is prepared in the areas where the crown will be placed by removing its outer portion to accommodate for the thickness of the crown. An impression of the tooth is made and sent to a special dental laboratory where the crown is fabricated. Making the crown may take a few weeks, so in the meantime, you will wear a temporary crown that the dentist will custom make for you chair side. When the final crown is ready, the dentist simply removes the temporary and cements or bonds the crown to your tooth. Minor adjustments are usually necessary to further customize the crown to your bite. If your crown is porcelain, it is extremely important that you avoid chewing hard foods, ice, or other hard objects such as pencils that could fracture the porcelain. Crowns protect teeth from fracture, but you can still get cavities and gum disease around them, so continue to practice good oral hygiene and see your dentist for regular examinations and professional teeth cleanings. It is most advantageous to crown a tooth before it actually breaks. Sometimes, a tooth will fracture well below the gum line. This will require gum surgery first to reposition the gums below the fractured edge before restoring the tooth with a crown. Occasionally, a tooth will fracture so badly that it cannot be saved and will need to be removed.