Crowns are actually used in a variety of different dental situations, can be made of many different materials, and even come in a few different types and styles so there’s a lot to know about dental crowns! First, the basics:
A dental crown is a cap that fits over an existing tooth or part of a tooth. You might think of it like siding on a house: the house itself is made of wood and while you could have a wood house, the elements might wear it down pretty quickly. To save the structure of the house and keep the insides safe, we put siding on the house. The siding looks nice and maintains the shape and size of the house so it still looks like a house. It also protects what’s underneath. That’s essentially what a crown does.
There are a number of different situations in which Dr. Sheehan may decide that you need a crown on one or more of your teeth. Here are some of those situations:
Although most crowns are placed in the mouth’s of adults, in some cases, children may need crowns as well. For instance, if a child has severely decayed primary (baby) teeth, crowns may be in order.
The process of getting a crown takes two visits: one to prepare the site receiving the crown, and one to put the crown on.
During the first visit, Dr. Sheehan will shape your tooth to be able to fit the crown over it. In most cases, this means filing the tooth down. But in cases where the tooth is broken or has suffered serious decay, it may mean building the tooth up with the same material that is used to fill teeth after drilling for cavities. After shaping the tooth, Dr. Sheehan will take an imprint of it. This imprint is sent to a company that makes crowns, so your crown will be designed to specifically fit your tooth. Finally, Dr. Sheehan will place a temporary crown over your tooth.
All of this is done under local anesthetic, so you shouldn’t feel any pain. If you experience discomfort after the local anesthetic wears off, over the counter pain medications like ibuprofen will usually be enough to soothe your tooth.
About two to three weeks later, when your crown is ready and has arrived at our office, you will have your second appointment. After Dr. Sheehan has checked to make sure the color and fit of your crown are correct, he will again give you a local anesthetic. Once you are numb, Dr. Sheehan will permanently cement your crown into place. Again, after the procedure, when the anesthetic wears off, over the counter pain medication is usually all a patient needs.
So, the entire process can take two to three weeks, but only requires two separate appointments.
Dental crowns come in a wide variety of materials and colors so, depending on your budget, the look you desire, and, in some cases, the reason you need a crown, your crown might look vastly different from someone else’s crown.
Your temporary crown will almost always be made of stainless steel. These crowns are prefabricated (meaning, they are not made to fit your particular tooth) and are simply there to protect the remainder of your tooth while your permanent crown is created. When children need crowns to cover baby teeth, dentists usually choose stainless steel crowns because they are inexpensive. When the baby tooth eventually falls out, the crown goes with it. This is also good for kids because it means it only takes one appointment, rather than the typical two appointments.
All-resin crowns are the cheapest variety of crowns, but they are hardly ever used for anything other than a temporary crown. This is because they wear down easily and fracture more easily than even porcelain and porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns do.
Metals other than stainless steel, like gold alloy or nickel or chromium alloys, are sometimes used for crowns for molars because they generally last the longest and are the heartiest in terms of all the chewing your molars do. Of course, they are generally gold or silver in color, so most people only like having metal crowns on molars because other people generally can’t see your molars.
If you are most concerned about matching the color of your crown to your other teeth, you may want an all-porcelain or porcelain-fused-to-metal crown because porcelain can be shaded to match your teeth. There are a few drawbacks to these types of crowns, though. Porcelain is fairly delicate and can chip, unlike metal crowns. Also, porcelain tends to wear down adjacent teeth more than metal or resin crowns. If you are allergic to metal, you’ll want an all-porcelain crown.
If you think you might need a crown or if you have another question about your dental health, we’re here to help. Give us a call and schedule an appointment today.