What are dental crowns?

Dental crowns are cap-like, tooth-shaped restorations that not only protect the damaged tooth, but also improve its shape and appearance. Essentially it’s like putting a mini helmet on your tooth; they cover the entire damaged or discoloured tooth and restore the shape and form to look like a normal tooth. When done properly by an experienced technician, it can be very hard to distinguish between a fake tooth and your natural teeth. Dental crowns can be placed on natural teeth or on top of a dental implant via an implant abutment to restore a missing tooth.

What are the types of dental crowns?

Dental crowns are a long term solution for restoring the tooth. Temporary crowns, as the name suggests, are temporarily placed on your tooth until the permanent crown is made. Dental crowns can be made of a few different materials. These are the same as for bridges. The two most basic types are all porcelain or porcelain fused with metal. The metal in the PFM may vary and be precious, semi- precious or non- precious. Porcelain crowns on the other hand can be made of lithium disilicate, zirconia, emax or a layered combination. Temporary dental crowns can be made in the lab if they need to be on for some time but most are fabricated chair-side in a tooth coloured acrylic.

Dental crowns are a long term solution for restoring the tooth.

Why do I need dental crowns?

There are a number of reasons why you may need a dental crown. The following are some examples:

  • Very large fillings: to reinforce the small amount of tooth that is remaining
  • Protect and hold together a tooth that is cracked, chipped, or broken
  • Restore a dental implant
  • As part of a bridge
  • A large multi-surface cavity
  • Enhance the appearance of the tooth (e.g. discolouration, alignment, or misshapen)
  • Protect a weakened tooth
  • Restore a fractured tooth
  • Protect a tooth that has had root canal treatment
  • Fillings that keep coming out or breaking
  • As part of cosmetic treatment
  • To close an area of food packing (as they can be built out)

What happens when I go to the dentist?

crownsAs with any procedure, your Maroubra dentist will first assess your teeth, bite, gums and bone levels. They will need an x-ray of a tooth that you are considering a crown for as we want to try and place a crown on a solid foundation so we must check the root of the tooth. If there is a likely risk of infection to the dental pulp, your Maroubra dentist may first suggest a root canal treatment. It is preferable to do this before the crown not after (though possible and we do need to do it from time to time). Teeth with a healthy nerve and pulp do not need root canal treatment before placing a crown. Back teeth that have had root canal treatment, should where possible, be crowned, as they become brittle having had the blood supply removed and as such become liable to fracture. Front teeth take less force, assuming they are protected in your bite, and so restoration with a filling is common; a crown is often not needed. This will of course depend on how much tooth has actually been lost .

If your dentist deems that a dental crown is needed, an appointment of just over an hour will be scheduled to prepare the tooth for the permanent crown. This will be longer if multiple teeth need doing. Until the permanent crown is ready, you will be given a temporary crown to protect your teeth for a short period (generally one to two weeks). Remember, since this is only a temporary crown, it can easily be taken out or dislodged–so take it extra easy on it. You should try and avoid eating sticky or hard foods that may either pull off or break the crown. Nuts are a bit of a nemesis- if you can favour the other side for chewing, this is often a good idea. When flossing, take extra care by not lifting up the floss up the way it came but instead pulling it through.

Will the dental crown procedure hurt?

No. We will numb your teeth and gums so the procedure is comfortable for you, there will sound like a lot of drilling but we are carefully shaping the tooth a tiny bit at a time to make space for a crown. We will place a temporary to hold the space ready for the permanent crown, but sometimes some sensitivity may be experienced or soreness in the gum after the local wears off, especially if we have been working close to the gum. You can just take your standard painkiller if you need to but any discomfort should only last a few days or just come back and see us.

How do I take care of my permanent crowns?

Crowns according to statistical data last on average around 12 years; a filling about 7 years. That said, you can get crowns last 40 years. As a general rule with modern technology we are shooting for around the 20 year mark. If a crown fails then rest assured a filling would have many years earlier. The actual longevity depends on many factors- the quality of the core (foundation), fit of the crown and how you take care of it being primary ones. Your oral hygiene and habits (such as smoking or grinding) also play a major part on how long your crowns will last.

Here are tips on how take care of your permanent crowns:

  • Practice good oral hygiene. This involves gently brushing the teeth and flossing. Treat it as you would a normal tooth.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste.
  • Consider using interdental brushes if there is appropriate space (just flossing if not).
  • Use a mouthguard or night splint if you’re prone to teeth grinding or clenching when sleeping- this habit places much stress on the natural teeth and any restorations.