All about Crowns

By Dr. Elizabeth Fleming
January 15, 2014
Category: Uncategorized
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What is a crown?
Sometimes during the course of your life, your dentist might tell you that you need a “crown.”

“What is this crazy person talking about?” You might think. “Is there some kind of coronation ceremony going on here?”


A dental crown is basically a solid “cap” that is placed over a tooth – either to repair damage to the tooth or to prevent further tooth decay. Although having a crown is not an ideal situation to be in as a dental patient, it’s a very common dental procedure that is used to help shore up the strength and health of injured and damaged teeth.

Here are some of the common reasons why you might need a crown:

  • If your tooth is broken (from a bike accident or fist fight) or severely worn down (from years of grinding your teeth while you sleep), a crown can be used to restore the tooth, making it possible to eat, sleep and bike again. (But please, no more fist fights!)
  • If your tooth has decayed or cracked, a crown can be used to hold the pieces of the tooth together.
  • If you have a large cavity, a crown can be used to cover the tooth and keep it safe and strong.
  • If you have a dental bridge or dental implant, a crown can be used to hold it securely in place.
  • If you have a misshapen or badly discolored tooth, a crown is used to cover it up.

Getting a crown is nothing to be embarrassed about or afraid of. The crown is going to make it possible for you to resume the normal use of your teeth, without pain or injury.

What happens when you get a dental crown?

Dental crowns are a rather elaborate dental procedure, and they typically require two separate visits to your dentist.

On the first visit, your dentist will examine your tooth that needs the crown. He/she will then anesthetize (numb) the tooth and surrounding gum area, file down the surrounding tooth in order to make room for the crown (and/or build up the tooth with filling as needed), and will then make an “impression” of your tooth to show how it will look after the crown is added. Finally, the dentist will apply a temporary crown to the top of your tooth. Now you’re ready to go home. Since this is only a “temporary” crown, you need to be careful with it – no hard, chewy or sticky foods, and be very careful when brushing and flossing. (Your dentist will give you more detailed instructions on the day of your appointment.)

Then, after you’ve made your appointment for the second visit, the dentist sends the impression of your “to-be-crowned” tooth to a dental laboratory, which manufactures a permanent crown. This is going to be the new little “part of you” that the dentist will add at your second visit.

Finally, when you arrive for your second visit (usually 2-3 weeks after the initial visit), the dentist will cement the permanent crown onto the top of your tooth. You may now resume regular chewing, biting and eating.

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Getting a dental crown is meant to be a safe, comfortable procedure that gets your chompers back into chomping form – we dentists call it “the royal treatment.”

What are the different types of crowns?
Dental crowns are a common dental procedure used to repair a tooth that has decayed or been damaged. There are a number of different types of crowns used for different patients and various situations – talk with your dentist to find out what type of crown is best for your needs. 

First, there are two broad categories of crowns: Temporary and Permanent.

Temporary crowns: These crowns are just like their name implies – they’re a short-term fix. Temporary crowns are made in your dentist’s office and are used as a stopgap, so to speak, until a permanent crown is available. Temporary crowns are not meant to be used for longer than 2 or 3 weeks, and they’re not meant to handle the heavy workload of a regular tooth or a permanent crown. So after you receive your temporary crown, your dentist will give you special instructions on what foods to avoid (hard, chewy, sticky – no apples, peanut brittle or chewing gum, please) and how to care for your temporary crown while your permanent crown is being prepared. Temporary crowns are usually made of acrylic or stainless steel.

Permanent crowns: These crowns can be made from a variety of tough, durable materials. They are built to last – a well-made, well-fitted crown can last for up to 15 years. A permanent crown is meant to be an extension of your natural tooth – you can bite, chew and eat just as well (if not better) than you could before the crown was added to your “starting lineup” of teeth.

Permanent crowns are made from the following types of material:

1. All-metal: Metal crowns are usually made from gold alloy, palladium or a base-metal alloy like nickel or chromium.

  • Advantages: One advantage of metal crowns is that less of the original tooth structure needs to be removed, and there tends to be less wear on the opposing teeth that make contact with the crown during chewing and speaking. Metal crowns rarely break and usually last the longest – it takes a long time to wear down a piece of metal.
  • Drawbacks: Metal crowns are clearly visible in the mouth – the metallic color definitely does not look like a natural tooth. If you’re sensitive to appearance, you might prefer to use a metal crown only for molars at the back of your mouth, where no one can see.

2.Porcelain-fused-to-metal: These crowns contain metal, but also have a porcelain veneer that can be made to match the color of your other teeth.

  • Advantages: Natural color and appearance – it looks the most like a “real” tooth and is a good choice for front or back teeth.
  • Drawbacks: More likely to chip or break, tends to cause more wearing-down of the opposing teeth. Sometimes the metal under the porcelain top is visible as a dark line.

3.All-resin: These crowns are made of inexpensive synthetic material called resin – a chemical composite used in dental restorations.

  • Advantages: These crowns are the least expensive.
  • Drawbacks: Sometimes you get what you pay for – all-resin crowns tend to be the most likely to break and wear down over time.

4. All-ceramic or all-porcelain: These crowns are made entirely of ceramic or porcelain material – no metal.

  • Advantages: These crowns offer the best natural color match – if you want the crown to look like a “real” tooth, then this is a good choice – especially for front teeth. The non-metallic crowns are also a good option for people who are allergic to metal.
  • Drawbacks: Not as strong as porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns. Also, they tend to wear down other teeth more than the metal or resin crowns.

Talk with your dentist to find out what kind of crown will best fit your needs. You’re going to be living with this crown for several years, so make sure you are comfortable with the crown’s cost, fit, durability and style.

At Desert Ridge Smiles, Dr. Elizabeth Fleming and staff would be happy to make you comfortable through your crown procedure.  Call Today for your appointment! 480-860-4300