Whether from neglect, genetics, or trauma, problems such as a broken tooth, discolored tooth, or large cavity filled tooth can happen to anyone. When it does, it is assuring to know that dentists have many options at hand to fix the problem. When deciding how to approach an issue like these, the dentist will consider many factors – severity of the decay in the tooth, size of the crack, overall oral environment, esthetics, bite forces on the tooth, symptoms, patient desires.
Once these factors are considered, the dentist can then decide on a method of treatment (e.g. crown, bridge, veneer, bonding, etc…) to restore the tooth. One of the most versatile options is the porcelain crown.
What is a Crown?
A crown is essentially a cap that fits over the existing, problematic tooth. When in place, the crown looks like a completely healthy, natural tooth while covering and protecting troubled tooth. While there are occasionally crowns made from metals, most dental crowns these days are made from porcelain or zirconia and porcelain. Both of these are tooth colored, and both are stronger than your tooth enamel.
Crowns can be crafted from a number of different materials, each having advantages and disadvantages. These days the most commonly used material is porcelain, however zirconia or porcelain fused to zirconia is also used in many cases. All Porcelain crowns are favored by dentists due to their natural appearance, strength, ability to color adjust, and ability to resist stains.
However, while very durable, all porcelain crowns aren’t quite as durable and wear-resistant as zirconia crowns. The cost for a porcelain crown can vary greatly between dentists, type of material and quality of laboratory used, but generally falls somewhere between $900-3000.
Zirconia crowns are very strong and can last a long time. They are very resistant to chipping or breakage. In addition, sometimes less of the existing tooth needs to be removed with zirconia crowns versus porcelain crowns.
On occasion dentists will use stainless steel for crowns. Stainless steel is generally used for temporary crowns to protect the existing tooth from further damage while a permanent crown is being made, or, more commonly, used for children to cover a baby tooth that will eventually fall out.
What to Expect
Getting a crown is typically a two-step process. Proper preparation of the existing tooth is a crucial step in the crown installation process. Once your dentist has ensured that decay and other issues around the troubled tooth have been remedied, it is time to prepare the tooth.
To do this, the dentist must remove portions of the bad tooth to make space for the crown to fit over it. The dentist will then take an impression of the tooth (and surrounding teeth) using impression material or a digital impression technique. The impression is then sent to a dental laboratory where the actual crown is manufactured, or made in office with a milling machine. It will typically take about two weeks to get the finished crown back from the lab. In the meantime, your dentist will fit you with a temporary crown to keep the prepared tooth protected while awaiting arrival of the permanent crown.
While your new crown will be stain resistant and resist chipping and breakage to some capacity, it is still essential that you practice standard oral hygiene practices around the new crown as the crown does not protect the underlying tooth from decay and other problems. This will keep cavities from developing under (and around) the crown. The dental crown can be cleaned as part of your regular 6-month cleaning.