A tooth crown, also known as a dental crown or just a crown, is a type of dental restoration that completely caps a tooth or dental implant. Crowns are often needed when a tooth has become severely damaged or decayed, but they can also be used for cosmetic purposes or to anchor a dental bridge. As dental technology continues to advance, there are several different types of crowns available today in 2023. Understanding the pros and cons of the various crown options can help you make the right choice for your needs. This guide covers everything you need to know about tooth crowns in 2023.
What is a Tooth Crown?
*A tooth crown is a restoration that completely encases the visible part of a tooth down to the gum line, replacing the external portion. Crowns are made to:
- Strengthen a damaged or decayed tooth: A crown protects the remaining tooth structure by completely sealing it. This prevents cracks from expanding and additional decay from forming.
- Improve appearance: Crowns can cover severe tooth discoloration, chips, misshapen teeth, and poorly placed dental fillings. The crown is custom-made to match your natural teeth for a seamless, aesthetically pleasing smile.
- Anchor a dental bridge: Crowns on either side of a missing tooth can serve as abutments to hold a bridge in place to replace the missing tooth.
- Cover a dental implant: The visible part of a dental implant is a crown that’s attached to the titanium implant screwed into the jawbone. The crown mimics the look of a real tooth emerging from the gums.
- Restore a tooth after root canal therapy: A root canal removes infected pulp from inside the tooth. A crown is recommended afterward to prevent fracture since the tooth is more brittle.
Crowns VS Veneers: What’s the Difference?
Crowns and veneers are two common cosmetic dentistry treatments used to improve the look of teeth. While they share some similarities, there are important differences:
- Crowns cap the entire visible tooth down to the gum line and require reshaping the tooth structure underneath by filing it down.
- Veneers are thin shells that cover only the front and sides of teeth. Veneers don’t require removing as much of the natural tooth.
- Crowns are used when there is significant damage, decay, or structural issues with the tooth, while veneers primarily address cosmetic concerns like alignment, spaces, stains, chips, or cracks.
- Crowns offer more protection by enveloping the entire tooth. Veneers are more prone to chipping or dislodging.
- Crowns are stronger and more durable. Veneers are more conservative but less permanent.
The choice between crowns vs veneers depends on the existing tooth condition and cosmetic goals. Many times a combination of treatments may be recommended for the best results.
Types of Dental Crowns
There are several different materials used to make dental crowns, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Some major types of crowns include:
Porcelain crowns provide the most natural appearance. They are often used for front visible teeth but can chip more easily than metal crowns.
Porcelain Fused to Metal Crowns
These crowns have a porcelain exterior fused to a metal structure underneath. The metal core provides strength while the porcelain mimics natural tooth color.
Gold Alloy Crowns
Gold alloy or other metal crowns withstand biting forces well. However, they are usually used for back molars instead of front teeth due to their metallic color.
Zirconia crowns are extremely strong and resistant to chipping. They can have a tooth-colored appearance but often appear slightly brighter than natural teeth.
These lithium disilicate glass crowns provide strength with translucent optical properties similar to natural teeth. However, they are not quite as durable as zirconia crowns.
Temporary vs Permanent Crowns
Temporary acrylic or alloy crowns may be placed in between the steps of getting a permanent crown. Temporaries protect the tooth in the interim.
Custom vs Stock Crowns
Stock crowns come prefabricated and are quickly placed in one visit. Custom crowns are uniquely created for the individual tooth using impressions or scans for a precise fit.
Why Do You Need a Tooth Crown?
There are many reasons your dentist may recommend a crown for your tooth. Here are some of the most common:
- You have a cavity or crack that involves a large portion of the tooth and requires a filling too large for just a traditional filling. A crown caps and supports the remaining tooth structure.
- Your tooth is severely discolored or misshapen and you want to improve its appearance. A crown covers the entire visible portion of the tooth with a natural, even color and shape.
- You have a weak spot on the tooth due to decay or injury that makes the tooth prone to cracking. Crowns reinforce the vulnerable areas.
- You have a dental bridge and adjacent teeth need crowns to support the anchored bridge and fill in the space.
- Your tooth has undergone root canal treatment and is now more brittle and susceptible to fracture without a protective crown.
- You have a dental implant and need a crown to act as the visible tooth portion emerging from the gums in place of the missing tooth’s root.
- You have severe tooth wear from grinding or acid reflux that has worn away enamel and dentin. A crown restores the size, shape, and chewing surface.
Crown Procedure: Step-by-Step
Getting a dental crown is usually done over multiple dental visits. The steps include:
The dentist will examine your tooth and recommend whether a crown is needed after evaluating your condition.
The tooth is prepared by reshaping it so the crown can fit over it. This involves filing down the tooth to remove any cracked or decayed areas and make room for the thickness of the crown. Usually, some form of anesthesia is used to numb the area first. A temporary crown is placed to protect the prepared tooth in the interim. An impression is taken to create the permanent crown.
The dental lab uses the impression along with notes on the color, shape, and bite to fabricate the custom crown. This process can take 2-3 weeks.
Crown Seating Appointment
The permanent crown is tested for proper fit and appearance. The tooth is cleaned and cement is used to adhere the crown securely into place. The dentist makes minor adjustments as needed to ensure comfortable chewing and biting.
A follow-up appointment may take place to check on the tooth and crown a few weeks afterward to ensure you are adjusting to it well.
Crown Care Tips
Crowns are durable, but you need to care for them properly to increase their longevity. Recommendations include:
- Brush twice daily – Regular oral hygiene is key to preventing decay around the crown and under the gumline.
- Floss daily – Flossing removes plaque from tight crown margins where bristles can’t reach.
- Avoid chewing hard foods – Sticky, hard, or crunchy foods can dislodge or crack crowns.
- Use a night guard – If you grind your teeth, wear a night guard to prevent excessive force on crowns while sleeping.
- Get regular dental checkups – See your dentist twice annually to ensure your crown remains clean and intact.
- Use fluoride products – Fluoride toothpaste, rinse, and gel help strengthen your natural tooth enamel and prevent decay around the crown.
Crown Pros and Cons
Like all dental treatments, tooth crowns have both advantages and disadvantages to consider.
Pros of Crowns:
- Restore badly damaged or decayed teeth
- Prevent fractured teeth from further damage
- Strengthen teeth after root canals
- Vastly improve the appearance of discolored, chipped, or misshapen teeth
- Support dental bridges and implants
- Fully custom fit to your precise tooth shape and bite
Cons of Crowns:
- Require filing down healthy parts of the tooth
- Can irritate or inflame gum tissue
- Higher cost than fillings or veneers
- Usually requires two or more dental visits
- Can chip or break over time
- Dark metal edges may show with receding gums
Evaluate both the pros and cons with your dentist when deciding if a crown is the right choice for your situation.
Tooth Crown Costs
The cost for a tooth crown can vary widely depending on the materials used and the location where you have it done. Some typical crown costs include:
- Porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns: $500-$1500 per tooth
- Porcelain crowns: $800-$3000 per tooth
- Gold crowns: $600-$2000 per tooth
- Zirconia crowns: $500-$2000 per tooth
- Emax crowns: $550-$1650 per tooth
- Temporary acrylic crowns: $100-$300 per tooth
- Additional costs for dental office visits, temporary crowns, x-rays, anesthesia, or shaping surrounding teeth may also factor in. Dental insurance can offset some of the cost depending on your plan’s coverage. Discuss the complete fees with your dentist beforehand so you know the total expense.
Dental Crown Costs
The cost of a dental crown depends on the material used:
- Porcelain fused to metal: $500-$1500
- Porcelain: $800-$3000
- Gold alloy: $600-$2000
- Zirconia: $500-$2000
- Emax: $550-$1650
- Temporary acrylic: $100-$300
Additional costs may include dental visits, temporaries, x-rays, anesthesia, and tooth preparation. Dental insurance can lower costs but check coverage. Discuss complete fees with your dentist.
Depending on your specific needs, some alternatives to dental crowns may be:
- Dental fillings – Smaller composite or amalgam fillings can repair minor decay or cracks.
- Veneers – These thin porcelain or resin shells only cover the visible front of teeth with minor damage.
- Onlays – These overlays extend beyond a filling but don’t encapsulate the entire tooth like a crown.
- Dental bonding – Tooth-colored material bonds to teeth to fix chips or gaps without removing as much natural tooth structure.
- Dentures or bridges – These removable or fixed appliances can replace missing teeth instead of using dental implants.
- Dental inlays – Inlays are restorations similar to fillings that are inserted into the tooth cusps.
Discuss any more conservative alternatives with your dentist to determine if another option may work instead of a full crown.
Common Questions and Answers About Tooth Crowns
Many people have additional questions when deciding if a crown is right for them. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about tooth crowns:
How long do crowns last?
With proper care, dental crowns typically last 5-15 years or longer before needing replacement. Good oral hygiene and avoiding chewing excessively hard foods can maximize longevity.
Do crowns ruin your teeth?
Crowns require reshaping the tooth structure underneath and removing some enamel. Therefore, crowns are usually recommended only when necessary to restore form and function for badly damaged teeth. When used appropriately, they do not ruin or weaken restorable teeth.
Can you eat anything with a crown?
Normal chewing is fine with crowns, but avoid sticky candies or hard foods like ice, nuts, and popcorn kernels that could potentially loosen or crack them. Follow the dentist’s recommendations regarding dietary restrictions.
Do crowns look natural?
Thanks to innovations like layered zirconia and porcelain crowns, tooth crowns can closely mimic the translucency and light reflection of natural teeth. However, exact shade matching one’s tooth color and appearance takes skill.
Do I need a crown after a root canal?
Root canal treatment removes the inner tooth pulp and leaves the remaining tooth more brittle. A protective crown is highly recommended after a root canal to prevent future cracking or splitting.
Are all porcelain crowns better?
All porcelain crowns provide the most aesthetically pleasing results. However, they may not always be as durable or fracture-resistant as porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns or zirconia, depending on one’s specific needs.
Do dental crowns hurt?
Having a tooth prepared for a crown doesn’t typically hurt due to numbing injections beforehand. Some sensitivity or discomfort from the numbing and dental work may occur afterward for a short time as the area heals.
How can I relax during a dental crown procedure?
Let your dentist know you tend to experience anxiety or fear at the dentist. They can help you remain relaxed using nitrous oxide or oral anti-anxiety medications. Listening to music and using mindfulness techniques also help.
Do I need a crown for my front tooth?
It depends on the severity of the damage. Small chips or cracks may only require cosmetic bonding or veneers instead. But large areas of decay, fractures involving the tooth pulp, or teeth at high risk of future cracking often benefit from full crowns for restoration.
While high-tech and expensive compared to other dental work like fillings, dental crowns remain one of the best ways to protect, strengthen, and restore severely compromised teeth. Thanks to major improvements in natural-looking crown materials such as layered porcelain and milled zirconia, tooth crowns can deliver both impressive aesthetics and long-lasting durability when placed by a skilled dentist.
With proper oral care and avoiding chewing excessively hard foods that could crack them, dental crowns can serve you well for many years before needing replacement. Regular dental visits are key to maximizing their lifespan. Be sure to discuss the pros, cons, costs, and alternatives to crowns with your dentist when deciding on the best solution for your situation.
Mustafa Al Mahmud is the Founder of Quick Medico and also a professional Blogger, SEO Professional as well as Entrepreneur. He loves to travel and enjoy his free moment with family members and friends.