What is a Dental Crown?

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Dental Crown

A dental crown is a custom-made, tooth-shaped “cap” that is placed over a tooth to restore its shape, size, strength, and appearance. Crowns are used to cover and protect damaged teeth, improve their appearance, and restore their functionality. This article will delve into the purpose, types, procedure, and care of dental crowns, providing valuable information for dental patients.

Purpose of a Dental Crown

Dental crowns serve several important functions, including:

  • Protecting a Weak Tooth: Crowns can protect a tooth weakened by decay or fracture from breaking further.
  • Restoring a Broken Tooth: They can restore a tooth that is already broken or severely worn down.
  • Supporting a Tooth with a Large Filling: When there isn’t much tooth left, a crown can cover and support it.
  • Holding a Dental Bridge in Place: Crowns can anchor a dental bridge, which replaces missing teeth.
  • Covering Misshapen or Discolored Teeth: For cosmetic purposes, crowns can cover teeth that are misshapen or severely discolored.
  • Covering a Dental Implant: Crowns are used to cover dental implants, which replace missing teeth.
  • Cosmetic Modifications: Crowns can be used to make cosmetic changes to improve the appearance of teeth.

Types of Dental Crowns

There are several types of dental crowns, each made from different materials and suited for various needs:

1. Stainless Steel Crowns

Stainless steel crowns are prefabricated and used primarily as a temporary measure. They protect the tooth or filling while a permanent crown is being made. For children, stainless steel crowns are often used to cover primary teeth that have been prepared to fit the crown.

2. Metal Crowns

Metal crowns are made from alloys that contain a high content of gold, platinum, or base metals like nickel and chromium. These crowns are durable, withstand biting and chewing forces well, and require minimal removal of tooth structure. However, their metallic color makes them less suitable for visible teeth.

3. Porcelain-Fused-to-Metal (PFM) Crowns

PFM crowns combine the strength of metal with the aesthetic appeal of porcelain. They can be color-matched to the adjacent teeth, making them suitable for both front and back teeth. However, the porcelain can chip or wear down over time, and the metal underneath may show through as a dark line at the gum line.

4. All-Ceramic or All-Porcelain Crowns

These crowns provide the best natural color match and are an excellent choice for people with metal allergies. They are suitable for front teeth but may not be as strong as metal or PFM crowns.

5. Resin Crowns

Resin crowns are less expensive than other types but wear down over time and are more prone to fractures. They are often used as temporary crowns.

6. Zirconia Crowns

Zirconia crowns are made from zirconium dioxide, a very durable material. They can withstand heavy biting forces and are gentle on opposing teeth, making them a popular choice for both front and back teeth.

Dental Crown Procedure

The process of getting a dental crown typically involves two visits to the dentist:

First Visit: Examination and Preparation

  1. Examination: The dentist examines the tooth and takes X-rays to check the roots and surrounding bone.
  2. Tooth Preparation: The tooth is reshaped to make room for the crown. If a large area of the tooth is missing, the dentist may use a filling material to build up the tooth.
  3. Impression: An impression of the tooth is made using a mold or digital scanner. This impression is sent to a dental lab to create the crown.
  4. Temporary Crown: A temporary crown is placed over the prepared tooth to protect it until the permanent crown is ready.

Second Visit: Crown Placement

  1. Removal of Temporary Crown: The temporary crown is removed, and the fit and color of the permanent crown are checked.
  2. Permanent Crown Placement: The permanent crown is cemented in place using dental adhesive.

Caring for Your Dental Crown

Proper care can extend the life of your dental crown:

  • Maintain Good Oral Hygiene: Brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily to prevent decay around the crown.
  • Avoid Hard Foods: Avoid chewing hard foods, ice, or other hard objects to prevent damaging the crown.
  • Regular Dental Check-ups: Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and professional cleanings.

Benefits and Risks of Dental Crowns

Benefits

  • Protection: Crowns protect weak or damaged teeth from further damage.
  • Aesthetics: They improve the appearance of teeth, making them look natural and healthy.
  • Functionality: Crowns restore the functionality of teeth, allowing you to chew and speak properly.

Risks

  • Sensitivity: Some patients may experience sensitivity to hot or cold after the crown is placed.
  • Chipping: Porcelain crowns can chip, requiring repair or replacement.
  • Loose Crown: If the cement washes out, the crown can become loose and may need to be re-cemented or replaced.

Conclusion

Dental crowns are a versatile and effective solution for restoring damaged teeth, improving their appearance, and protecting them from further damage. By understanding the different types of crowns, the procedure, and how to care for them, patients can make informed decisions about their dental health. Always consult with your dentist to determine the best type of crown for your specific needs.

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