Many people call a tooth crown a cap. A crown (or cap) restores your tooth to its normal size and shape. It strengthens weak teeth by completely covering and surrounding them. Crowns can also be used to change the color of your teeth.
Crowns may be recommended for:
- Fractured teeth
- Cracked teeth
- Large filling on a tooth with little remaining tooth structure
- After root canal treatment
- For teeth with excessive wear from grinding or clenching
- Teeth with discoloration or uneven shape
- As a support for a cemented (fixed) bridge to fill in a gap
- To restore a dental implant
There are three types of crowns in use today.
- All metal crowns are often precious metals (gold, platinum etc.). They last a long time and are less damaging on your opposing teeth. They are usually metal (gold or silver) colored so some people don’t like their looks. Metals have also gotten very expensive so sometimes this type of crown is more expensive than other options.
- Porcelain Fused to Metal (or PFM) crowns: the metal offers strength while the porcelain provides cosmetics. (The porcelain is a tooth colored material.) If used in areas of thin gums (such as front teeth) there is often a grayish color at your gumline. There is also a chance that the porcelain can break off the metal—the metal usually remains to protect the tooth, but it does create a cosmetic issue in some locations.
- All ceramic crowns are made entirely of tooth colored materials. They blend well with your surrounding teeth and look the closest to your natural tooth enamel. They have been known to break under certain conditions and usually need to be done again if that happens.
Things to consider when choosing your crown type:
- Location of tooth in your mouth (front tooth or back tooth, do you see it when you smile?)
- Your bite and your dental habits
- Amount of tooth and gums that shows when you smile
- Color and shade of your tooth (and color and shade that you want)
- Your own personal preferences
- Your dentist’s recommendation
Once you’ve decided on a crown, your dentist prepares your tooth and takes an impression. Crowns are most often made at a dental laboratory though some offices may have a CAD/CAM system. The dental laboratory has more options available to it for material types whereas the CAD/CAM system usually works with only one type of material. In either case, your crown is custom-made to fit your prepared tooth and the way your teeth come together.
If your crown is being made at a dental laboratory, you will have a temporary crown placed on your prepared tooth to hold the space created by the preparation and to protect your tooth until the final restoration can be placed. This temporary should remain on your tooth until your dentist is ready to place the custom-made crown.
Most crowns last a long time, but they can decay around the edge where the tooth and crown meet (what we call the margin), so it is important to continue your brushing and flossing at home.
You can find out more about dental crowns here: Crowns & Bridgework
*Note: The information in this article is not intended to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare providers.
Jennifer G. Robb, DMD is a general dentist who sees both adults and children.