Crowns aren’t just for royalty, they’re also a great way to repair your smile! Although sometimes people choose to have crowns placed for purely cosmetic reasons, the vast majority of patients come in to the dentist only to discover that they need a crown to fix a significant dental problem. Your dentist can help you decide if a crown is right for your situation, but you want to go in prepared. That’s why we wrote this short guide to dental crowns.
THE IDEAL CROWN CANDIDATE
The best candidate for a crown is a patient who will take care of that crown, as well as the rest of their mouth. Like any sort of implant, a crown needs its own brand of care, on top of the care you give your regular teeth. If you’re prepared to do the work, your dentist may recommend a crown if you have:
Deep fillings close to the root of the tooth in question, that are decaying or are painful.
Cracked or severely worn teeth.
Cavities that are too large to fill.
A root canal — the new crown will act as a protector for the newly restored tooth.
Discolored or misshapen teeth.
Keep in mind that although your insurance will likely cover a portion of a crown that is required for any reason on the list above, a cosmetic crown is likely all on you. If you have any questions about how your dental insurance works, contact your insurance company so you know exactly what the procedure will cost.
Making a Crown Fit For Royalty
Typically, crowns are constructed in a specialty laboratory by highly skilled technicians. It’s almost more of an art than a science considering the multiple combinations of metals, ceramics, porcelain, composite resins and subtle color tints that are often utilized to make a crown that’s nearly indistinguishable from a natural tooth.
Crowns are constructed specifically for each person and tooth that needs one. There is no such thing as a universal fit crown. These are a few questions that lab techs have in mind while designing your new tooth:
Where will this crown be located?
What’s the function of the crowned tooth?
How will the crown set in relation to the gum of the tooth?
How much of the tooth will show when you smile?
What color are the other teeth around it?
Of course, your tech or dentist will also ask you about your preferences. If you’re looking for something a little fancier than a typical crown, it could cost you extra, but you may be much happier with it, too. On the other hand, you can save a little bit if the crown you need is toward the back of your mouth. Less expensive materials can be used since an exact color match isn’t really necessary.
Drum Roll Please: Time to Place That Crown!
Crown placement usually takes several visits to complete, but it’s not the sort of thing you want to rush. The accuracy of the crown is only as good as the time your dentist and their team spend in your mouth. Here’s what to expect:
Crown Prep. On your first or second visit, your dentist will numb your mouth and remove the outer part of your tooth so she can eliminate every last bit of decay present. After that, she’ll shape what’s left of the tooth so that your cap will fit perfectly. Once in a while, the structure under your tooth isn’t strong enough to support a crown straightaway. You’ll probably need a core build-up in these situations.
Impressions. At the same visit, your dentist or their assistant will make an impression of your soon-to-be crowned tooth using a fast-setting sort of putty or a digital scanner, depending on the dentist and lab’s preferences. In addition to modeling, your dentist will record the color of your teeth so the new crown fits in flawlessly with your natural teeth.
Temporary Crowns. Once you’ve finished modeling for the dentist, they’ll make you a temporary crown. After all, those exposed nerves that are currently numbed won’t be numb forever. They’re going to need something to protect them from the world. Take care with this temporary crown, though. Not only won’t it be a perfect fit, it isn’t even cemented in, so avoid sticky or challenging foods and brush and floss gently until your final crown is finished.
Getting Your Crown. In about two weeks, you’ll return to your dentist for the real deal. She’ll check that your new crown does, in fact, fit properly and adjust it if necessary. When you both agree that the fit seems right, out comes the cement and just like that you have a brand new crown that no one would ever suspect isn’t real.
CARING FOR YOUR CROWN
Crowns need care, just like regular teeth, so always be careful about what you’re eating and drinking, especially if that crown is in the front. Avoid sticky or hard foods, floss and brush extra around your crown to help avoid pockets from forming in the gumline, and, of course, brush and floss at least twice daily if you really want to protect your investment.