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Dental Crowns

What are dental crowns?

Dental crowns are a covering for your tooth, otherwise commonly known as a ‘cap’. You could think of it like a helmet for your tooth. They are different to normal fillings in that first they are fabricated by a technician in a dental laboratory and then later cemented on. Unlike removable appliances such as dentures, dental crowns are fixed in place and don’t need to be taken in and out.

They can be made from a variety of materials, such as porcelain/ceramic, gold/metal or a combination of both. Each of them have their own advantages and disadvantages depending on your specific needs or desires. For example – you may want to rejuvenate the look of your smile in which case a high quality porcelain/ceramic crown could be suitable. Or maybe you’re concerned about your back teeth breaking from tooth grinding in which case gold/metal may be better.

When would I need a crown?

Existing large dental fillings
Normal dental fillings can be more prone to chipping, coming out or wearing when compared to dental crowns. As they keep breaking and having to be replaced, more and more of the tooth can be lost and eventually it can lead to the loss of the tooth as crowns require sufficient healthy tooth to support it. Placing a crown in these situations can prevent this from happening and provide a long lasting solution.

After root canal treatment
Teeth that have had root canal treatment can often become weaker and at higher risk of fracturing. Placing a dental crown on these teeth help to provide sufficient protection to prevent this from happening.

Cracked/broken teeth
You may have cracks in your tooth or it may be broken down. This can be quite common with old amalgam metal fillings. Sometimes they will be painful to chew on or sensitive to hot and cold. Whilst a regular dental filling can be possible, they often end up being quite large and more prone to breaking, hence a dental crown often being the ideal long term option.

Cosmetic reasons
Dental crowns can be one of a number of solutions if you’re unhappy with the appearance of your teeth (discoloured, broken, worn, poor shape). With modern dentistry, crowns can be made to look very natural and to the shape and colour you desire.

After placing a dental implant
Once a dental implant is placed for the purposes of a missing tooth, you will need a dental crown placed. The implant will be the ‘root’ of the tooth with the crown being the part that will be visible.

Worn down teeth
Teeth can become worn down over a period of time, often due to grinding and clenching. This can lead to an unsatisfactory appearance and if left untreated for enough time they can become worn down to the point where they may not be able to be easily fixed. Dental crowns can be used to restore the appearance and to prevent further wear from occurring.

What is involved in getting a dental crown?

The fabrication of a dental crown will typically involve two appointments.

Firstly an examination is required to assess the tooth and the rest of your oral health. X-rays may be required to help further assess your teeth. This is to ensure that your specific case is suitable for a crown. Your dentist will discuss the procedure in further detail and any risks specific to your case.

Local anaesthetic is used to help make the procedure as comfortable as possible. If you’re anxious about dental treatment, your dentist can discuss possible sedation options with you. Any decay and old filling is removed and the core part of the tooth may need to be built up to help support the crown. The overall size of the tooth is made smaller to allow for the crown to fit and then an impression is taken of your teeth. A temporary crown will be made and placed as necessary.

At the next visit, the temporary crown is removed and your new crown is checked to make sure the colour matches with your other teeth and that it fits properly to your tooth. It is cemented into place and then checked and adjusted as necessary to make sure it fits with the way you bite your teeth together.

It can be normal to have some discomfort and sensitivity once the anaesthetic has worn off – this typically resolves within a few days or so.

How long do they last?

There are a variety of factors involved which determines how long it will last. Your natural teeth won’t last forever and crowns are no exception, but they can last in excess of a decade provided it is maintained properly with good oral hygiene habits.

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How do I care for my dental crown?

Whilst the crown itself will never get dental decay, the area where the tooth joins the crown can. Good oral hygiene with regular brushing and flossing is required to help prevent decay and gum disease around the crown. Habits such as tooth grinding/clenching and chewing on ice cubes will place undue stress on the crown and can shorten its lifespan.

Your dentist can discuss specific advice to help you get the most life possible out of your new dental crown.